Last June 23, 2020, the Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation held the premiere of their very first Fellowship Plays online – 7 one act plays written by 7 NYC public high school students as a part of the Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation Playwriting Fellowship program. Fortunately, we were able to interview Katherine Sciortino, one fo the playwrights to talk about her experience writing ‘Snowed In.’
1. What inspired you to write “Snowed In?”
Snowed In was inspired by two things: the word “Guilt” and my love for dramatic twists. I knew I wanted my play to have a twist in the end so I decided to put my own spice on the classic “he’s been dead the whole time” trope. I used the world guilt to slowly build my script. Jason’s monologue was the first thing I wrote since it’s the part of the play that screams “guilt”. As I wrote the beginning of the play, I left subtle hints to create a feeling of uncertainty for the audience since what they’re seeing isn’t reality.
2. What were the challenges that you faced while writing this script?
While writing the script for Snowed In, my biggest challenge was self-censorship. Unfortunately, my learning environment favors escapism and tends to avoid sensitive topics such as suicide and LGBTQ rights. While I was writing Snowed In, I constantly asked myself “Is this too much?” but one email later, I felt the freedom to express what I wanted in my work and basically say “I want to write it so I will”.
3. There are several issues/themes that were shown in the script. Are these issues that you advocate for?
I believe that mental health is something that people underestimate. Our minds are the control center for the body and if the control center is down then the whole system is down. I hid my poor mental health because I was raised on the belief that bottling up emotions is the best solution. It’s not. I think we have to erase the old ways and help people understand that it’s okay to talk about feelings that are uncomfortable. Because really, the hardest part about that is saying the first word. I understand that people have struggles and believe that they cannot do anything to make their lives seem better. But even then, I do not understand how ending your whole life is the best solution. We are here for a reason and taking your own life will not only cause pain to those around you, but it will also prevent the world from receiving the amazing things you create. My self-identity is a constant battle especially since I’ve experienced bullying from my peers. We all have the same blood pumping in our hearts and no one deserves to be mistreated because of something that makes them different. People don’t hate you because you’re different, it’s because they’re jealous they’re not you.
4. Are there any plans on making a longer version of this script?
I have thought about writing a full-length version of Snowed In but then I realized that if I did, it would mainly focus on Jackie. With my characters, I can spread messages that I believe are important and if I only focused on Jackie then I would be putting some messages in the dark. Instead, I am planning on writing two more short plays. One where Jason is in the spotlight and another where we get to meet the infamous father. I’m in the thinking process, but I know that it’ll take one word popping into my mind and everything will start clicking.
5. What were your thoughts after watching your script come to life?
If I typed my thoughts during that moment, it would just be “…. this did not just happen”. After watching my script come to life, it was hard for my brain to process anything because of how unbelievable it was to me that something I wrote was coming to life. Watching Snowed In with my family filled me with pride and it made me excited to see that I have the ability to make something that not only makes people laugh but also think about their own lives and there own self-importance.
6. What did you learn from this experience?
What I learned from this experience is that even if you are unsure about something just try it and follow your gut. The original script that I submitted to the Lortel Foundation was messy and had no real passion behind it. After meeting with my mentor and director, I realized that I had an opportunity to use my voice to share something that I believed was important and show the world my way of art. The final deadline was only a few days away and I wanted to write a completely new script. It would be hard but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t do a full rewrite. I am so glad that I followed my gut because I created something that I’m proud to show everyone.
To watch ‘Snowed In’ and the rest of the fellowship plays, click on the video below: