All great works start somewhere, and often inspiration comes unexpectedly.
During the three-week Education Program for Gifted Youth summer workshop at Stanford University, Elizabeth Johnson received an in-class assignment: Write a script. Stuck behind writer’s block, Johnson wrote the only thought on her mind: “I don’t know.”
More than a year later, Johnson’s “I don’t know” is now a full-length production called “A Day in My So-Called Life,” which comes to this weekend as part of the New Playwrights series.
When Johnson watched her script performed during EPGY, she decided to expand and stage her original piece.
“I got to see my work come to life,” she said. “It’s the most magical thing that ever happened to me.”
Johnson said her senior project at Poway High School gave her the perfect opportunity to create a fully developed version of her play. With the help of her mentor Jay Mower, a local director, Johnson re-created her summer assignment into a full-length production, which was approved for performance by the POWPac Board of Directors.
“A Day in My So-Called Life” introduces the audience to high school senior Paige Warren, just like Johnson. Johnson said inspiration behind many of the characters, especially Paige, comes from her personal experiences.
“The main character is very much myself,” Johnson said. “I show myself in all of my characters.”
The story follows Paige (Kate Hansen) as she goes about a typical day’s activities such as running late to school, struggling to communicate with her parents and dealing with her crush, all the while interacting with a life-sized embodiment of her brain (Laurissa Rudgers).
All of the actors are older than their 17-year-old director.
“I’m like the little baby, but I’m in charge,” Johnson said, laughing.
Hansen and Rudgers, both PHS graduates, appear alongside other local actors: Michael Adler, Donnalee Brayman, Mikaela Hess, Tyler Christian Jiles and Dillon Thomas
Adler, who appeared in other productions including “Awake and Sing!” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” said his love for performing inspired him to be part of Johnson’s project.
“Shakespeare was right when he said, ‘All the world’s a stage,’ ” Adler said. “Stage and theater is kind of like a microcosm of life.”
Johnson said the cast helped her improve the script and hopes the volunteers will be rewarded with a full house and an enthusiastic audience.
“I’m so blessed to have this amazingly talented cast,” Johnson said. “I just don’t want them to feel like they’re doing this for nothing expect for my school.”
“A Day in My So-Called Life” opens Friday at 8 p.m. There are also shows on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the box office: (858) 679-8085.