Cherry Hill West playwright pens competition-winning script

Sophomore Brie Leftwich was one of two high school students to win Sacred Heart University’s national playwriting competition.

Cherry Hill High School West sophomore Brie Leftwich was feeling anxious as April arrived.

Leftwich had entered Sacred Heart University’s first-ever National Playwriting Competition. The competition gave two high school playwrights the opportunity to have their scripts read during a summer program at the college.

The competition said two winners would be selected and notified by April 1. However, Leftwich didn’t receive anything from the university.

“All day Saturday, I’m looking at my email, nothing there,” she said. “The next day, nothing was there. I was upset, because, who wouldn’t be?”

“I emailed them and asked if (they) came up with the winners yet,” Leftwich continued. “The email said, ‘No net yet … we really enjoyed your piece.’”

A couple days later, Leftwich went from anxious to joyful. She, along with Wendy Kuhn from Georgetown High School in Texas, were named the winners of the competition.

Playwriting has always been a passion of Leftwich. She began playwriting in third grade and has gotten deeper into it during high school.

Early in the school year, Leftwich was looking for opportunities to push her writing further. She got help from Cherry Hill West drama teacher Carolyn Messias, who suggested Leftwich enter Sacred Heart’s competition.

The competition consisted of two steps. In late 2016, applicants were asked to submit a 500-word synopsis of their work, as well as a cover letter and two references.

Sacred Heart University then selected a group of finalists to submit a full script. The scripts were due in March, one month before the winners were selected.

For a little while, Leftwich considered a bunch of story ideas, but couldn’t get anything to stick.

“Originally, I had actually no idea what I wanted to do,” she said.

One day, Leftwich was browsing Instagram when she saw a picture of a large apartment building. This picture would lead to her competition-winning script, entitled “Apartments.”

“I proceeded to write a story about all these different neighbors and people who lived in a building,” Leftwich said.

The strength of Leftwich’s story was in the characters. Leftwich said she tried to create a variety of personalities and develop storylines to which an audience can relate.

Leftwich believes her writing skills have come a long way in the past year. Last summer, Leftwich attended the Young Writers Workshop at the University of Virginia for the first time. She said the program had a huge influence on her success in the competition.

“I met a lot of really great people and a lot of people told me information,” Leftwich said.

One of the benefits of traveling to Virginia last year was getting to meet other script writers with whom Leftwich could share her work.

“I can always send them my work,” she said. “Because they were script writers, they understand it was reading a script.”

Leftwich plans to return to the Young Writers Workshop next month. After the program ends, Leftwich will travel from Virginia to Connecticut to participate in the Sacred Heart workshop.

Leftwich said she is looking forward to having people she doesn’t know read and work on her competition-winning script at Sacred Heart.

“I’m excited to see how somebody who doesn’t know me takes on my characters,” she said.

In addition to working on her script, Leftwich will get the opportunity to take classes and workshops at Sacred Heart.

Leftwich hopes to use this summer’s experience to help propel her writing skills forward. Leftwich said she plans to go to college for playwriting in a few years.