What happens when a teenage girl has to leave her normal life, but not of her own choosing? To be surrounded by security at all times? What would that mean for her relationships?
Those are some of the issues addressed in “Madame President,” a play written by Saint Mark’s High School sophomore Mallory Murphy. She entered it into the Young Playwrights Festival sponsored each year by the Delaware Theatre Company, and it was one of five finalists from across the state. Murphy is now working with professionals from the DTC to get her work ready for a performance on stage in April.
Murphy wrote “Madame President” in a few weeks in December. She worked with Dana Kinsey, who directs the Spartan Writing Lab at Saint Mark’s. The lab is a new initiative at the school this year.
Set at the presidential election in 2050, “Madame President” examines from a daughter’s perspective the transition in her life when her mother goes from being a senator to the president. Murphy got the inspiration for her play from a book called “The President’s Daughter.” The theme of the festival was “possibility,” and Murphy made the connection between the book and her play.
“It’s something that obviously hasn’t happened yet. I thought it would be really cool to explore that,” she said.
Kinsey said members of the DTC reviewed the first drafts and gave feedback. The playwrights then re-submitted their work. For Murphy, they wanted her to increase the conflict in her work. Kinsey said the theater company wanted to make the situation more “high-stakes” for the mother and the daughter, so Murphy added a love interest for the daughter.
“(Murphy) did such a great job of incorporating this young man that the girl would have to leave and possibly lose, and maybe never see again. (The character) was frustrated. She was happy for her mom; she was acquiring her dream. But also a little sad for herself because her life’s about to change, and maybe her mother wasn’t fully zoomed in on that,” Kinsey said.
Murphy said she appreciated the feedback, which helped provide a clearer path forward for the characters in her play.
“I think the conflict adds a lot more depth to that conversation and a lot more meaning. The stakes are just kind of raised higher,” Murphy said.
Over the course of the next month or so, Murphy will attend three workshops at the DTC with writing professionals to further develop the story and make any additional changes. She will be involved in the directing process and rehearsals. The shows are in April.
“I’m really excited. I definitely didn’t expect to win. I just thought it would be a cool thing to try for to see how it went,” she said.
Murphy said her mother is a writer who has worked in communications and runs a blog and does marketing work. She also has worked on political campaigns. That may be where her daughter’s writing talent came from, Murphy said.
A Hockessin resident, Murphy attended Brandywine Springs Middle School and chose Saint Mark’s because she wanted a fresh start in high school with new faces.
“Saint Mark’s appealed to me because it had such a community behind it. It just seemed really welcoming when I shadowed and toured. I was excited to kind of get into it and meet people,” she said.
In addition to writing, she is involved in the mental health club, which is new to the school this year. She is training to be a peer support counselor at Sean’s House in Newark. The house provides mental health resources for students who may be struggling. It is named after Saint Mark’s graduate Sean Locke, who suffered from mental illness and committed suicide in 2018 at the age of 23. She also plays guitar.
Murphy said with regard to “Madame President,” the title character is not the first female president of the United States. She also hopes it doesn’t take until 2050 for the country to elect a woman to the nation’s highest office.
“I think it would be good if we could hurry it up and get that done sooner. I think it would be great for young women in this country to see representation like that,” she said.