At times the world seems small and other times vast. How do you care for the earth? How does the earth care for you? Whether through science or connecting with wild things, seeing the earth as a scientific marvel or a mother, how does caring for our earth create change for the climate of your heart or the climate of our entire planet.


CTM’s Young Playwrights program creates a public forum for youth voices through the medium of playwriting. Between September and December, high school & middle school students participate in a day-long workshop to kick off the program, write a 10-minute play based on a theme, and receive professional feedback on their scripts.


CTM is a host site for Playwrights for Change, which is a national playwriting competition run by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE). The mission of Playwrights for Change is to produce meaningful conversations that will ripple across our nation to provoke change. The goal is to spark conversation and discussion throughout classrooms, schools, and communities. CTM will select one script to represent CTM at the national competition.


In addition to the script selected for the national competition, CTM will select one script per school group to be given a staged reading at the Young Playwrights Festival in late April/early May. This year’s festival will be April 30th

All ten-minute plays will be directed and acted by professional theater artists and youth actors in roles appropriate to their ages. There will be a daytime festival for students from all participating schools (including a workshop series) as well as an evening festival that is open to the public. At the end of each performance, there will be a talkback with the playwrights.

Timeline of Playwrights for Change Residency

  • September:

    AATE announces the theme of the national Playwrights for Change competition.

  • November-December:

    A CTM Teaching Artist will lead a 45 minute workshop for your students (in your classroom or at MYArts) to unpack the theme, brainstorm ideas, and dive into character journeys.

  • Late December-Early January:

    First drafts of student scripts are due to CTM.

  • Mid January:

    CTM Teaching Artists will meet with students (in your classroom or on Zoom) and provide feedback on their drafts.

  • January 31:

    Final drafts of student scripts are due to CTM.

  • Mid February:

    CTM will choose one script to submit to the national competition. Also, CTM will select one script per school group to be given a staged reading at the Young Playwrights Festival.

  • March 1:

    Deadline for CTM to submit the selected script to the national competition.

“For us, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to bring in a teaching artist to work on fostering the ability of students to express and share their ideas, experiences, and voices.”

“Students were able to use their imaginations and powerful voices to tackle some of today’s most pressing issues. All of them left [the Festival] feeling inspired and empowered to continue using their creative voices to tell stories that matter.”

“From the first workshop to the last, I saw my students grow so much. They learned not only about play writing, but also how to be engaged members of an audience. They also grew in confidence…I think they all now see themselves as Advanced Learners!”

History of Young Playwrights at CTM

  • 2006:

    Young Playwrights, a residency program for teens, is established at Madison Rep by Shannon Skelton.

  • 2008:

    CTM adopts the Young Playwrights Program and hosts the Young Playwrights Festival annually.

  • 2015:

    CTM becomes a host site for the national middle school competition Young Playwrights for Change, run by American Alliance for Theatre & Education and Theatre for Young Audiences/USA.

  • 2021:

    “Young Playwrights for Change” becomes “Playwrights for Change,” and begins accepting high school scripts as well.

  • 2022:

    CTM combines the two programs (Young Playwrights for high school students and Playwrights for Change for middle school students).

National Winners & Runner Ups!

  • 2024:

    Runner Up:

    Amber Ferris of Waunakee Middle School. Her play “Growing Up” tells the story of a lumberjack whose love of cutting down trees is put to the test when he is required to assist an elderly woman plant a tree. As the tree grows, so does the unlikely pair’s friendship as well as the lumberjack’s appreciation for the natural world.

  • 2023

    National Winner:

    Elena Meloy of Sennett Middle School. Her play Masks won the National Playwrights for Change competition (Middle School Category).

  • 2022:

    Runner Up:

    Isa Killian of Kromrey Middle School. Her play “Under the Surface” looks at two high school students trapped in a cave who must suddenly face their deepest fears, biggest hopes, and are offered a chance to reconcile stereotypes they held about each other.

  • 2021

    Runner Up:

    Leela Benson of Glacier Creek Middle School. Her play “Wait for Me” looks at a friendship interrupted by the pandemic and personifies/creates characters for the emotions Anger, Hopelessness, and Patience. Watch an interview with Leela and AATE!

  • 2020

  • 2018

    National Winner:

    Taylor Nordeng of Kromrey Middle School. Her play Uprooted won the National Young Playwrights for Change competition and was performed at the AATE National Conference in Minneapolis, MN (as well as at CTM’s Young Playwrights Festival). CLICK HERE to see Uprooted performed at the AATE Conference, CLICK HERE to read the feature in the Wisconsin State Journal, and CLICK HERE to see an interview with Taylor at the AATE Conference.


  • Monona Grove for the 21st Century (Alex Mentele & Bel Haynes)
  • Kromrey Middle School (Jean Holman, Molly Nelson, Maria Nygard, & Hannah Rose)
  • Waunakee Community Middle School (Andy Moll)
  • MMSD Advanced Learning Specialists (Kate Aughenbaugh, Jena Jackson, Amanda Jamae, Carlie Jarvey, Abbie Mannenbach, Michelle Nelson, Amy Sheridan, & Rachel Stohler)
  • Horizon High School (Enda Breadon & Bob Weinswig)
  • La Follette High School (Dave Pausch)

“What I loved about the YP program was having workshops and being able to interact with other playwriters. It was an amazing experience gaining advice from others who are doing the same assignment as you are.”

“I think that you should never change the moment when students get to watch all of the amazing plays that their peers created because it is just such a good feeling to see not only how hard someone worked but to get to cheer them on because of how well they did. I got to cheer for my friend’s play and see him succeed when I was at the festival and I would not give that up for the world.”

“I loved the varieties of the plays that were performed. Some were extremely serious, and others were humor based. I really liked how we had a general topic we needed to write about, but were also given so much creative freedom.”


  1. Engage middle school students from diverse populations and explore the stories of youth from varied backgrounds and abilities; increase students’ knowledge of playwriting and support all students as they write a 10‐minute play.
  2. Provide a public forum for youth voices through playwriting, and a public celebration of original student works in a world‐class performance venue. Increase students’ confidence presenting their creative work to peers.
  3. Provide mentorship and foster growth of students’ self‐expression; cultivate students’ perception of writing as a valuable life skill.


Email [email protected] if you want to learn more about bringing Young Playwrights for Change to your school.

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