Pupil's play performed as part of theatre's playwriting scheme
When Conner Milliken talks about writing plays and the emotions he wants to evoke in his audience, it is hard to believe the S6 pupil from Hillpark Secondary in Glasgow discovered his talent only last year.
This month, his play, The Thirteenth Night, which pays homage to his late grandmother and his native Glasgow, has been chosen to be performed as part of the Traverse Theatre's Class Act playwriting programme.
"I am really proud and I am just thrilled that he is getting this recognition, as are his peers," says Conner's drama teacher, Janice Browning. "Conner has always been eager to write and I am sorry that I did not get to work with him sooner. He is an absolute delight to work with and a generous team player."
Conner wrote his first play for his drama class last year, and Ms Browning was so impressed by his talent that she suggested he should submit something for Class Act.
Class Act is an annual playwriting project run by the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, which last year for the first time allowed schools in the Glasgow area to take part. Plays written by Edinburgh pupils were performed by professional actors in the Traverse Theatre, while those by Glasgow pupils are performed at the Tron Theatre this week.
This year, to mark the project's 21st anniversary, one play from each year will be played at the Traverse, and Conner's has been chosen to represent 2010.
Conner says he gets his inspiration from watching people go about their daily business, and came up with the idea for The Thirteenth Night while on a Glasgow bus.
"The best inspiration, I find, is just sitting somewhere looking around, and I was listening to two old ladies on the bus, talking. They reminded me so much of my gran, and I realised there were quite a lot of people like that," said Conner.
"I wanted to make it a play where everyone in the audience will be able to say `I know someone who would say something like that'."
The play is set in a Glasgow housing scheme and focuses on the conversations and revelations that take place among the smokers at a 60th birthday party. The main character is Sandra McCall, the host's sister, who over the course of the evening becomes a witness to love, betrayal, and plenty of gossip. The entire play is written in Glaswegian dialect.
"Sandra McCall is my Granny's maiden name. I moan about it, but I really love Glasgow and I really wanted to bring that on to the stage. My gran passed away last year and she was one of the most `out there' people you could ever meet, so I wanted to celebrate that. Every family has people who don't get on, and at parties it all comes out. It is quite universal."
He says he was nervous when the professional cast and the director came to Hillpark Secondary for the first reading, even though, according to Ms Browning, they were "bowled over" by the script.
Conner says: "The actors came in and did the cold reading, and I was panicking about it. The class read it out and no one laughed at the jokes. Then the actors did it and the class were falling about laughing."
He says his family is proud of what he has achieved and is looking forward to seeing the play performed at the Class Act gala performance. "My whole family was really excited about this. They were not too happy that I want to make this my career, but when I told them about this they were excited."
Conner plans to start university in September to study English literature, and is determined to carve himself a career in writing. "I am definitely going to carry on writing. I am going to just keep writing and see what publishers think of it."
He says his teacher's support has been crucial: "My wanting to go into this career was such a late thing, so Ms Browning has been a saint and she is my mentor. If I ever get famous I will really owe her."
The Class Act project is a scheme run by the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, which allows pupils to get an insight into playwriting and have their own work acted out and directed by experienced professionals.
This year, the project is celebrating its 21st birthday and, over the years, 511 plays have been performed and more than 1,000 pupils involved.
Pupils from participating schools get the opportunity to work with professional playwrights, who visit the schools for tutorials, and eventually see their scripts, which are supposed to be about 10 minutes long, produced and performed by a team of professional directors and actors on stage. The project is supported by the Barcapel Foundation, the Moffat Charitable Trust, the John Thaw Foundation, Edinburgh City Council and Culture amp; Sport Glasgow.
Schools wishing to take part next year can contact Noelle O'Donoghue at the Traverse Theatre on 0131 228 3223 or email@example.com for further information.