Young Playwrights' Theater inspires young people to realize the power of their own voices.

Josie Walyus

Promising Playwright, May 2018

“I had never seen anything like that before: seeing your words come to life. So that was very cool.“

For 9th-grade H-B Woodlawn student Josie Walyus, the 2018 New Play Festival was the next step to a life-long dream. Josie’s play, Three Cheers to Grace, was recently produced on High School Night of the 2018 New Play Festival to enthusiastic acclaim! Three Cheers to Grace follows car accident survivor Eliza and comatose best friend Grace. Eliza struggles to come to terms with the critical condition of her best friend, while Grace, although in a coma, struggles to have her voice heard as her friends grow and change around her.

Three Cheers to Grace kind of came from different experiences I’ve had,” explains Josie. “I like the idea of having a character not be limited to the story being told, but stepping outside of it.” For Josie, that character was Grace. Through Josie’s writing, the audience is able to see the story unfold from Grace’s perspective, even if the character is in a physical coma. And the tension builds as friends Grace and Eliza try to connect with one another but just can’t.

Josie has always considered herself a writer, but is just now beginning to see herself as a playwright: “I used to write when I was really little, and as I went through elementary school, I kinda liked writing,” says Josie. “But I could never stick to something. So with writing plays, I feel like it’s a little easier to stick to and explore different ways that people can talk.”

While Three Cheers to Grace isn’t the first thing Josie has written, she says it is the first time she ever finished a play. The original play itself was a much longer version than what was produced on stage, but YPT loved it so much, that next season, it will produce the full version in a theatrical run.

Josie says that the YPT experience was "mind-blowing" and that it further encourages her to pursue playwriting professionally as she gets older.

“I learned a ton. Especially seeing it on stage. The first time we saw it on stage in class, it was like a huge experience. I had never seen anything like that before: seeing your words come to life. So that was very cool.“

To other young people interested in writing, Josie says, “Keep writing. I totally never thought I would be doing something like this, but I just kept on writing and kept on writing and taking classes and this is where I’m at.”