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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020 9 months ago

Eislinn Gracen wins national playwright contest

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The West Orange High junior is one of seven students declared winners of the competition, which focused on the theme of ending gun violence.
by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

Eislinn Gracen has written a second award-winning play — and this time it’s a national honor.

The West Orange High School junior was one of seven winners nationwide in the inaugural #Enough: Plays to End Gun Violence playwriting project and competition. A performance of Eislinn’s play, “Guns in Dragonland, will be streamed digitally Dec. 14 through 20 on Broadway on Demand in collaboration with the Orlando Repretory Theatre.

The title is a reference to children’s programming and a recollection of how that and school shootings have affected Eislinn. It also stems from an upsetting conversation she had with her younger brother about a recent school lockdown and the “bad man” he and his classmates had to hide from. She was unnerved by his innocence coupled with the thought of what she would do if she lost her brother to such a tragedy.

In the play, Lilah Gordon and her best friend/imaginary dragon, Toucan, are on a special adventure to help Lilah earn her dragon wings when they hear a noise at the nearby school.

“Guns in Dragonland” was originally workshopped at Beth Marshall’s Top Teens this summer.

Eislinn said she thinks her unique perspective on the subject gave her the winning edge. Her play originally was workshopped and produced as a virtual staged reading as the headliner for Beth Marshall Presents’ New Works Series; she said two people gave her productive feedback that helped her keep the story more focused.

The budding playwright previously won the Florida Theatrical Association Award at the inaugural Be Original playwriting festival last year for her play “Wolf in a Concrete Jungle.” It was performed as a table read at the festival and as a staged reading at the University of Central Florida.

She most recently wrote the part of The Pardoner in the Orlando Fringe Festival’s “The Canterbury Tales Project,” presented as a virtual reading for Howler’s Theatre.

Eislinn’s creative mind is in overdrive, as her next play — to be submitted to this year’s Florida Regional Thespian Festival — is “Fun at Parties,” about an alternate reality where lawyers, doctors and scientists struggle to get by and entertainers such as clowns and mimes dominate the 1%. She also is working on “Topin Swineson: The Modern American Pig,” about a genetically created pig-man who lives in a government facility and his job is to read and create propaganda for the country.

Another play idea is set in the future and takes place in a retirement home full of Gen Z kids and their stories about the 2010s.

She not only writes plays, but she performs in them, too. She currently is playing Perceval in West Orange High’s production of “Lord of the Flies.”

Amy Quesinberry is the community editor of the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She was born and raised in Winter Garden, grew up reading the community newspaper and has been employed there as a writer, photographer and editor since 1990....

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