By Jason Wesseldyk
Like brother, like sister.
After watching her brother Colin advance to the finals of the Grand Rapids Civic Theater’s Ten for All playwriting competition last year, McKenna Wesseldyk decided to enter the contest this year.
And earlier this month, McKenna received word that her play had been selected as one of the semifinals for this year’s competition, which features plays that are a maximum of 10 minutes long.
McKenna’s play, “The Principal Prank,” will receive a public reading on Monday, Jan. 31, along with the other semifinals from the Youth categories. Finalists will be announced on or around Monday, Feb. 7.
“When my parents told me my play was picked as one of the semifinalists, I was really excited,” said McKenna, 10, a fifth grader at Dix Street Elementary School in Otsego. “I know how amazing it is to have your play come to life if you make it to the finals and getting to the semifinals is one step closer to the finals.”
McKenna cited Colin, a junior at Otsego High School who is currently preparing for his role as the Tin Man in the upcoming OHS production of “The Wizard of Oz,” as an inspiration for her interest in theater.
“Colin has been in plays since he was four and I’ve always had fun watching him,” McKenna said. “And when he entered the Ten for All contest last year, I got to watch him write his play and it looked like a lot of fun.
“So when (the Grand Rapids Civic Theater) opened up the contest to younger kids this year, I wanted to give it a try. I’m glad I did.”
The inaugural Ten for All Festival last year featured four categories: Drama, Comedy, Wildcard and Youth. This year, the festival expanded the Youth category to include three subcategories: Youth Playwright Grades 1-5; Youth Playwright Grades 6-8; and Youth Playwright Grades 9-12.
Three semifinalists were selected from each of the three subcategories in the Youth division.
At the public reading of the Youth semifinalists, three local judges will be charged with selecting a single finalist based on the same rubric that was used to determine the semifinalists.
For being selected as a semifinalist, McKenna will receive a $25 prize. Finalists will receive an additional $50 prize.
McKenna’s play centers on a trio of fifth graders—twins Hayden and Harmony along with their friend Evelynn—whose school is run by a “very mean principal.”
When the principal cancels the fifth-grade field trip, the main characters decide to play a prank on him as a form of payback.
McKenna said the idea for the play came to her organically—and made it clear that having a mean principal was not something she could related to through first-hand experience.
“I’m a fifth grader, so I wanted to write about kids my age,” she said. “I started thinking about things that could happen at school and thought about principals. I’ve never had a mean principal before, but I wrote about what I thought it would be like to have one.”
After coming up with a general idea for the play, McKenna started to hone in on the details.
“I started thinking about what could happen in different scenes and how many scenes I wanted,” she said. “Next, I wrote a rough draft. Then, I edited and wrote a final paper by hand before I typed it up and sent it in.”
McKenna relied on Colin to help her with some of the finer points for writing a play.
“He taught me some of the terminology of writing plays and told me what to expect when I talked to the director for the first time,” she said. “He also read over my play before I sent it to make sure I wrote it correctly.”
Although this year’s Ten for All Festival is still ongoing, McKenna is already starting to think about ideas for next year. She is also looking forward to the opportunity to get on stage.
“Once you’re in middle school, you’re able to participate in the musicals at Otsego High School,” she said. “I look forward to that. Colin will be a senior next year, so that will be our chance to be in one of the musicals together.
“My other brother Caleb will be a sophomore next year, so I’m trying to talk him into doing the musical as well so all three of us can be in it.”