‘The Flame Tamer’
At age 17, Rebecca Levine is realizing a dream that many playwrights never achieve in a lifetime.
The junior at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School will watch the characters created in her imagination come to life as City Theatre this week presents her one-act play entitled “The Flame Tamer.”
Levine is one of six students whose plays were chosen by City Theatre to be produced as part of its 10th Annual Young Playwright Festival.
City Theatre received about 150 submissions from students throughout western Pennsylvania in grades seven through 12, said Kristin Link, director of education at City Theatre. From the 150 submissions, three plays were selected from middle school students, and three from high school students.
The 20- to 30-minute plays will be performed in clusters this weekend, with the plays by the middle school and high school authors each shown together.
“The Flame Tamer” is Levine’s first play, and she sees it as a sort of moral allegory.
“[It’s] kind of like ‘Animal Farm’ with cavemen,” said Levine. “It’s set in a prehistoric village, where there is a drought, so there are only four or five people left. Then someone comes in with fire, but his power gets out of hand.”
While the play’s moral “is open to interpretation,” Levine believes it warns of the dangers of apathy, and cautions against giving leaders too much power.
Levine became inspired to write the drama by a trip she took to Poland in 2008, along with Holocaust survivors. Learning about townspeople watching the trains carrying Jews to death camps, and not doing anything to help, she said, highlighted the tragedy of “the apathy people have when this type of thing goes on.”
“I’ve always had an interest in history,” Levine added, “and this type of thing especially. I like to explore different times when a powerful leader gets out of hand, and what it takes to stop him.”
Link said she was impressed with Levine’s play, calling it “a very clever, smart piece.”
Anya Martin, a Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama alumna, is directing all the plays. Professional adult actors comprise the casts.
The process of selecting and producing the plays began last spring. Students submitted their scripts in March, and selected plays were announced in June.
All submissions were read by at least two members of the theater’s literary committee, which includes about 40 individuals with professional theater backgrounds, Link said. All students then got written feedback from their readers, whether or not their plays were selected.
Once the plays were chosen, the students were paired with a dramaturge — a coach-like figure who helped them examine the content and the context of the play.
“The dramaturge helps the playwright fine tune the script,” Link said. “They spend two months revising the script and getting the play ready.”
The young playwright then remains involved in every aspect of the production, from auditions to the first read-through to rehearsals.
Levine was pleased with the choices the director and actors made in interpreting “The Flame Tamer.” She especially enjoyed watching it develop in ways she never imagined.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “I got to see some of the auditions, and some of the rehearsals. It’s exciting to see it come to life. It doesn’t even seem like it’s my play anymore.”
Levine may eventually pursue a career in writing for television, she said, but she is also thinking about writing another play.
“But I want the next one to be a comedy,” she said.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)