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EP Students Collaborate to Win Playwriting Contest at Philadelphia Young Playwrights Annual Festival

EP PYP winnersElkins Park students Hannah Dreibelbis and Tina Ramberg-Michael won the elementary school playwriting contest at the recent Philadelphia Young Playwrights (PYP) annual playwriting and monologue festival with their work “Calypso and the Quest for the Marigold Stones.”

“I am so proud of the girls,” said teacher Mary Aiken. “They are hard workers in general so I can't say I am surprised. But to be able to produce such an amazing play during our hybrid learning says so much about their dedication to the project.”

The play focuses on the young, intelligent girl Calypso, who accidentally blows up her chemistry school with an “experiment” gone wrong. She starts searching for an ancient temple she knows will be able to bring people and things back from the underworld - Xibalba. When she arrives, she finds a snarky ghost of a young girl named Akna, who is destined to help her. The pair look for the marigold stones which are the keys to Xibalba, but one of the keys is in Xibalba itself. While they are searching for the last stone, the king of the Mayan gods, Kinich Ahau, comes down from the heavens telling them Akna has fulfilled her quest and must now go to Xibalba. Kinich Ahau gives Calypso the last stone as a gift and takes Akna to the underworld. Calypso then fixes her mistake and goes back to her school, but she never forgets Akna. 

“Working in a group allowed me to take inspiration from another person,” said Dreibelbis. “I didn't realize that we were in a competition; I just liked writing a play.”

“I liked working with Hannah because our combined ideas created a much better play than if only one of us wrote it,” Ramberg-Michael added. “I am happy to be recognized but we didn't write if for recognition. We were just doing something we loved.”

In all, Cheltenham School District students claimed six first place winners - three in the elementary school play category, one in the middle school monologue category, and two in the high school playwriting category. Each of CSD’s seven schools claimed a placewinner. The work of six CSD winners from the playwright and monologue contests will be performed on YouTube as part of the PYP’s virtual triple-bill SaturPLAY on Saturday, Dec. 11.

Each year, PYP invites students to submit their plays to the annual playwriting festival. Plays are considered by the literary committee—a collection of nearly 70 program alumni, artists, staff, teachers, and others—who read and write individualized responses to every play. Literary committee members recommend a number of outstanding plays to be considered for further consideration by two additional groups of readers, pre-final committee and final committee. At the final committee, the panel chooses winning plays, including those that will be produced for public presentations. Those students are invited to continue to revise and develop their plays in partnership with theater professionals for production, a series we call the Play Development Series.