St. Elizabeth High School junior Danielle Chapman swears that despite relying on what she knows, her play “Double Time” does not foreshadow some illegal activity on her part. “Double Time” tells the story of a high school student who works the night shift at a convenience store, “and it just kind of goes from there.”
Chapman’s play is one of five finalists from around the state in the Young Playwrights Festival, sponsored by the Delaware Theatre Company. It, along with the other four, will be performed at the DTC in April, with Chapman working with professionals from the theater to get it ready for the stage.
The protagonist in the play is a stressed-out student, said Chapman’s teacher, Robin Hayden.
“I suspect Danielle was channeling some of her own (stress),” Hayden said.
Chapman said there could be some truth to that. She remembered Hayden telling her students during Chapman’s freshman year to “write what you know. That was her biggest tip for me, and I did that this year, too.” Not the actual robbery part, however.
Chapman said it’s easy to project one’s own characteristics on to the characters.
St. Elizabeth students have participated in the festival in the past, and one of the students Chapman beat out this year was her older sister, Megan. She wrote her play the night before it was due, which, apparently, was not much of an impediment.
“It is something I enjoy, especially when you have so much freedom like I did with this thing,” she said.
She described her first draft as “very choppy” and “very messy,” and the folks at the theater company offered advice on ways to clean up the text. Hayden also gave her opinion, which held more sway with her student. Hayden suggested that she give her robber more character.
“I took more of Ms. Hayden’s advice than I did from the playwright because I was meeting with Ms. Hayden after that review,” she said. “I originally wanted him to be more mysterious, but I took (her) advice, and I wrote it, and it did look a lot better, and I liked it a lot more. So that was the biggest thing.”
This month, she and the other finalists have been meeting with the professionals in workshops as the plays move closer to the stage. Before the workshops, Chapman said she was getting nervous because “I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m just some high school student who threw together a play really quickly, and we’re going to be working together, so that’s going to be weird.”
She said her family is excited to see the finished product in April. Chapman said she is anxious to see other people acting out her work.
The writing was still being revised in mid-February, and she believes she will be helping with casting and set design. She is hopeful they don’t ask her too much about directing. Chapman is involved in stagecraft at St. Elizabeth and said staying behind the scenes is more to her liking.
Hayden said St. Elizabeth has had “excellent luck” in its participation in the Young Playwrights Festival. The school had a winner two years ago, but the onset of the coronavirus pandemic eliminated any chance of staging the play in a live setting. The DTC did record a video of it and sent it to the participants.
Chapman lives near Wilmington and is the youngest of four siblings in the high school. She has two sisters who are triplets and seniors. When not writing a festival-winning play at midnight the night before it is due, she also plays field hockey, indoor track and soccer for the Vikings. She is also involved with the Science Olympiad, and has done service work at a summer camp at an area art school.