Sophomore Gavin McGinnis, an aspiring professional play writer, was recently selected as a finalist in the New York State Theatre Education Association’s 2023 Student Playwriting Competition.
Gavin’s play, “Expanse,” was showcased during NYSTEA’s recent, annual student conference at the Villa Roma Resort in Callicoon. He worked with a NYSTEA mentor to finalize revisions to the play, was part of the cast selection process and was involved in directorial duties.
“The most exciting part of being selected for NYSTEA, for me, is getting to see my work done by actors my age,” Gavin said. “I typically write very serious, historical material, which has been played by adult actors, so getting to see one of my lighter shows performed by and reacted to by a younger group allows me to have a fresh perspective on the whole process.”
A pirate, Plato and a spy
“Expanse” is the story of Captain Alexander, a brutal pirate who warps Plato’s philosophies to his will and mercilessly works his crew. When news of a spy filters up to him, he knows there’s only one man he can call upon: Harry Underwood, a bright-eyed deck hand. There’s only two problems: A nosey servant tied up to a chair and the unavoidable fact that Harry is, in fact… the spy!
Gavin aspires to double major in music and playwriting at Bard College, and is doing everything he can to position himself to be accepted there.
“I think the reason I love playwriting so much is that it allows you to convey complex ideas and opinions through art, which is one of the most beautiful things in our world,” said Gavin.
Among other things, the “Expanse” manuscript needed to meet NYSTEA’s criteria of being a strong, original presentation of a story that appeals to a specific audience, with non-fictional elements clearly researched and a setting which supports character, theme and story. The characters needed to be dynamic and multi-dimensional, with any conflicts relatable to a high school audience with strong internal/external motivations.
Who’d play the roles?
The play’s characters are “Bloody” Alexander Anderson, a ruthless pirate and lover of finer things; Harry Underwood/Scranton Winters, a member of the Royal Guard and undercover deckhand, and a servant.
“If I could get anyone in the world to play parts in this show, I think I would want Captain Alexander to be played by Patrick Page, because he is wonderful at playing slick villains, and always manages to bring a rich undertone of darkness to everything he does,” he said.
Gavin noted he based the servant’s mannerisms off of the clownish faces and movements of Cary Grant, so he’d be his pick for that role.
Harry’s role player needed to show his intellectual side, while quietly knowing he’s always the smartest person.
“I think someone like Daniel Craig would be good at that type of role,” he added.
Music teacher and drama director Laura Hulle was thrilled to see Gavin’s work come to life on the stage.
“We are so proud of Gavin,” she added. “This is the first time a Minisink Valley student has submitted a play, let alone have it be selected to be performed at the conference.”
Gavin remains joyful about his good fortune and grateful his play’s selection will help build his playwriting resume and credentials.
“I think the lesson here is to never give up on dreams, because you never know what’s right around the corner,” he said. “Keep throwing things against the wall, you’ll never know what will stick.”