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Volume 24, Number 8 — August 2017

Youth Spotlight: Hunter Perrin, Craig Rockett and Jason Terrill.

Accepting awards at the reception for young playwrights are, from left, Hunter Perrin, Craig Rockett, Kelly Vance and Jason Terrill.
Accepting awards at the reception for young playwrights are, from left, Hunter Perrin, Craig Rockett, Kelly Vance and Jason Terrill.

"Extra Credit" Project Transforms Students Into Winning Playwrights

By Hunter Perrin | August 28, 2007

When you think of playwrights through-out history, certain names are synonymous with great literature. Some individuals think of Socrates and his tales of Greek tragic heroes. Others might think of William Shakespeare and his masterpieces. Certainly no one thinks of three Honors English classmates from Northeast Tennessee who won last season's Barter Young Playwrights Competition.

The day began like any other day of my senior year. I was just another drowsy student sitting in my A.P. English class fighting senioritis. My teacher, Mrs. Kelly Vance, had handed back a test on Hamlet and my grade left much to be desired. Extra credit was now a necessity. Mrs. Vance, knowing that the test scores were not up to par, told us about a playwright competition at Barter Theatre. Writing a play was going to be one more thing to do, but that extra 100 test grade was too hard to pass up.

So began my sojourn into playwriting, along with classmates Craig Rockett and Jason Terrill. We all were extremely busy playing football, tennis, and soccer, but we needed the extra credit, so we decided to sacrifice our Saturdays to collaborate. The unanimous decision was to write about moonshiners. Immediately we discovered that we knew nothing about the subject. Since we're technologically dependent youth, we spent our first Saturday on the Internet where we learned the lingo and the business dealings of this elusive trade. Jason's mom actually had a friend who dealt with moonshine when he was younger. He agreed to meet with Craig and Jason one Saturday, and they learned the moonshine business and local locations from this man who had experienced it firsthand.

Time passed quickly and we finished our extra-credit "masterpiece." We turned it in, and thought that was it. A few weeks later Mrs. Vance told us that our play had reached the finals, and we had been invited to sit in with one of the Barter players for a professional perspective. It was an amazing experience. He reviewed our play and, even though he advised us on technical changes, he made sure that the script remained ours.

Finally we got to see our play performed in front of a real crowd by professional actors on Barter Theatre's Stage II. Each of the plays chosen as finalists was unique and personal to the writers. Some were humorous with bears taking over the world, while others were darker and dealt with death. The time came for the top plays to be performed. When our play won first place, we couldn't believe it. Watching the players bring our words to life was amazing. The actors painted the same picture we envisioned in our heads. After the performances, the playwrights went on stage and answered questions. Each writer's face beamed with pride when talking about his or her play.

What began as an extra credit project given by a caring teacher had transformed into a lasting memory that the three of us will forever share. And who knows where one of us Northeast Tennessee boys might end up in the world of playwriting.

Editor's Note: Hunter Perrin recently graduated from Bristol Tennesee High School.