Sam Burris is a ninth grader at Washington Lee High School, and recently became a published playwright as well. Sam’s play, The Stranger, was produced in the 2012 New Play Festivaland was recently published in YPT’s first nationally available book, Write to Dream.
When he got the call that his play was going to be published, Sam says it was "probably one of the greatest feelings ever. I never expected it to go very far. It was great to be part of the production process and it’s great to have it published now. It makes me so much more confident."
Sam began to find his voice as a writer in sixth grade. "That was when I found what I like to write about. A lot of times I like to write about stuff I see around me or problems I encounter. It’s more stuff that I don’t like to face head on so it’s easier to put it into words and let those do the work for me."
However, he lost interest in writing until he started YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program in eighth grade at Swanson Middle School. "In seventh grade I didn’t think writing was really a big deal but then I started in YPT and I saw that my writing can actually do something, my writing actually has meaning. So now when I’m bored I’ll write, where normally I would just sit and play video games. So it’s more of a creative outlet for me than before I started YPT."
Sam wrote The Stranger as a response to seeing so many veterans who he believed faced significant hardships and disrespect from their community, many of them homeless. Now that Sam’s play has been published, he hopes that his message will reach readers across the country. "I really hope that people understand how much others go through to protect us. I hope they have a newfound respect for veterans and anyone who has served our country in any form."
He also hopes that Write to Dream will inspire other young people to use playwriting to bring about change. He would tell aspiring playwrights, "If you want to make a difference, never hold back because even though people might not have listened to you, you can still make a change, no matter how small it is."
Sam’s love of theater extends to acting as well as playwriting. He is currently in rehearsals for two plays: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (in which he plays Doctor Horrible), and In Memoriam, a murder mystery. Being a playwright with YPT has changed his perspective as an actor. "When I was just acting I never really thought about what the playwright meant. But now that I’ve written a play I know that everyone has a message behind their play so I have a heavy load to carry here because I’m trying to get someone’s message across and I wouldn’t want to dishonor the playwright’s words. So I have to try really hard."
Participating in YPT’s programs has also impacted Sam’s work in school. "Since I partook in YPT it’s been easier for me to get my message across to my teachers and get good grades."
Sam would tell students who are considering getting involved with YPT, "Definitely go for it! It may seem odd at first, but once you get to know the people, it’s one of the most fantastic things you’ll ever do. It’s great, it teaches you so many life lessons, makes you more confident in yourself, you can make a lot of good friends, it’s just... a good time."
You can read Sam’s play, The Stranger, and 29 other inspiring plays by the students of YPT in Write to Dream, available on Amazon.