When Noah Stepanov wrote his play in class at Abingdon High School this year, he got quite the surprise: he won Barter Theatre's Young Playwrights Festival.
"I became interested in playwriting through Dr. Crystal Hurd's class," he says. "Last year she introduced us to this program, and I was quite unsure. I wrote some shabby, few pages worth of a play, but did not submit it to the Young Playwrights. This year when she gave us the assignment, I had a year's worth of serious, general writing study under my belt and decided to give it a go. The last play I wrote stayed on lined paper, was in no way formatted correctly and was overall not really meant to be played on stage. However, the actual process of writing a legitimate play was very interesting."
Noah's play, "Paragon," dealt with the conflict between science and religion. "To me, people see the two as great forces that have no choice but to constantly clash and hate each other," he says. "So I thought it would be funny to put two stereotypes from both sides in the same room, stick a neutral guy in the middle and let them go to town." He "added a little kick to the drama" by giving Abednago delusions of grandeur.
The plays centers around a conflict between Abednago (the science side), Bishop Adolfus (the religion side) and Gideon (neutral). Abednago has caused some trouble and the Bishop has to sort it and Abednago out. Gideon is torn between the two worlds; Gideon's brother is the scientist, and his home is the church.
Noah says that it took about two weeks to write and format. "Being new to the whole process, the formatting part really threw me at first."
More than 400 students entered 248 plays in the this year's contest. The Young Playwrights Festival is open to high school students in Southwest Virginia, Northeast Tennessee and Southwest West Virginia. Students or groups of up to three students wrote and submitted original 10-minute plays. A panel of Barter professionals read each play and chose the eight winners.
Barter Players, the acting company for young audiences, and Barter Resident Acting Company member Justin Tyler Lewis act and direct each of the winning plays.
"Watching the wonderful Barter actors perform my play was an awe-inspiring experience, like watching something you slaved over grow to be something great," Noah says. There's a fear that perhaps the actors may not portray the characters, or the situation, exactly as you had imagined it, and in some cases it might be true. But if it is, it's so much the opposite of bad. They take your expectations, and pass them right up to the sky. I'll always be grateful for their work, it was absolutely amazing."
Noah says he loves to write fiction, specifically novels. Although he hasn't yet finished the project he is working on, he hopes that writing fiction may become a career. He's also considering screenwriting.
There are other writers in Noah's family; his grandmother was a "fantastic, published poet. My brother is an avid poet though he seldom shares his work."
His writing earned Noah another honor this past summer, when he was chosen to attend the Young Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa.
Noah says that the arts "have certainly changed the way I look at things; and I think for the better. I get to see everything from a more colorful point of view and appreciate the little things. Above all things, it's given me a sense of creativity, which I personally see as one of the most important aspects of, well, life in general."
In his spare time, Noah says he won't lie; he likes to play video games. But he also draws and practices martial arts.
Noah is the son of John Stepanov and Donna Miller. He is a 17-year-old senior at Abingdon High School.