In the theatre world, William Shakespeare, Arthur Miller and Neil Simon are familiar names.
As famous as these playwrights are, they all started somewhere. Recently, Colorado high school students had the opportunity to showcase their own creativity by submitting plays they had written in a statewide playwriting competition through the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
Of the plays submitted 10 semi-finalists have been chosen and one of those semi-finalists is T.J. Norton, a senior at Discovery Canyon Campus High School.
Norton submitted “Lost” — which he calls an absurdest play.
“It’s about a boy who keeps trying to find his purpose in his relationships but eventually he finds he is content with himself,” Norton said.
Norton has written several plays and he has been acting since he was a freshman. He started singing at a very young age. Norton plans to pursue musical theatre in college and has been accepted to the University of Northern Colorado. He said the next step is to audition to get into the university’s theatre program.
When he’s not acting in one of the school productions, Norton often performs in one of the productions at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. He recently performed in “The Wizard of Oz.”
A lot of the inspiration for “Lost” came from a workshop that Norton took at the Fine Arts Center which was taught by the legendary actor Ben Vereen. Vereen is best known for the television mini-series “Roots” and the Broadway musical “Pippin.”
“During the workshop he (Vereen) told me I was a good performer, but acting was more than performing,” Norton said. “The workshop taught me to vulnerable in front of people.”
Norton also credits his teacher Amy Keating for helping add emotional depth to his play. He said Keating’s playwriting class has helped him understand how important the writing is for actors.
“I think writing is the most important thing to acting and understanding writing is the most important part of playwriting,” Norton said.
By the time this story goes to print Norton will have found out if his play was chosen as one of the top three finalists. The top three students will receive a $250 scholarship, have a staged reading of their plays at the Colorado New Play Summit and they will receive a complimentary pass to any reading or production at the Summit. The teachers of the top three finalists will also receive a $250 gift certificate for books or supplies to be used in their classroom. The winner of the playwriting competition will have their play produced at the Denver Center Theatre Academy 2014 summer program.