Seventeen-year-old Savannah Von Kaenel is now a published playwright. The Queens Grant High School senior’s play, “The Cat’s Out of the Bag,” was chosen as one of three winning high school entries in the North Carolina Young Playwrights Festival hosted by the North Carolina Theatre Arts Educators.
As one of the winning playwrights, Von Kaenel received $100, which she promptly used a portion of to treat herself and her boyfriend to sushi, and saw her play performed at Triad Stage in Greensboro by UNC Greensboro students and faculty. Her play will also be published on the the North Carolina Theatre Arts Educators website where teachers can purchase and produce it and she can earn royalties.
Von Kaenel says she never expected someone to take an interest in her carefully crafted words.
“I picked up writing as a serious hobby when I was 12. I tried keeping a diary, multiple times but it just never worked out,” Von Kaenel said.
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“Now I write when I’m inspired, whenever I think something will make a cool story.”
She enjoys writing both comedy and drama, but comedy seems to be her favorite genre as evidenced by “The Cat’s Out of the Bag,” the third play she has written at Queens Grant since starting the school as a sophomore.
“The Cat’s Out of the Bag” features three middle-schoolers, one of whom has lost her cat. The group goes on an adventure to find it. Finally deciding the cat has been murdered, they hold a séance in the alley hoping to communicate with the cat’s spirit, only to be in for a big surprise at the end of the play.
Queens Grant theater teacher Elizabeth Mills says Von Kaenel has a really good ear for dialogue, an important element in playwriting, as well as a unique way of handling serious issues in comedic way.
“She’s a really unique kid who writes for fun. One of the things she’s really good at is dealing with a sad topic in a way that’s funny,” said Mills.
‘With the other two plays I feel like she was practicing. With this play, she’s found her voice – it’s exactly her.”
When I was little, I was the best in English, but now we are talking about clauses and independent clauses, and I don’t even know what it means. I’m not that good at grammar.
When writing, Von Kaenel says she always does the first draft on paper.
“It’s really hard for me to create when I type. I write it out first, then type it in,” Von Kaenel said.
And although she loves to write, she’s not too keen on the whole grammar thing.
“When I was little, I was the best in English, but now we are talking about clauses and independent clauses, and I don’t even know what it means. I’m not that good at grammar,” Von Kaenel said.
But she is good at acting, having been in numerous performances at Queens Grant and Spotlight Performing Arts Academy in Mint Hill, and she is also an accomplished director. Last year she directed her classmates in one of her plays, and will do so again next month with The Cat’s Out of the Bag.
She says directing fellow students is not without its challenges.
“It’s hard when you’re directing your friends because sometimes they think it’s really cool to be joking around and sometimes they don’t take it as seriously as you would like for them to,” Von Kaenel said.
“But it’s really a lot of fun. I like both acting and directing.”
She’s headed to Central Piedmont Community College after graduation and isn’t sure what her major will be, but she does intend to keep on writing and acting, as hobbies if nothing else. But with her first published play under her belt, who knows what her future holds? One thing is certain, she can no longer hide her playwriting talent – that cat’s out of the bag.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to go?
“The Cat’s Out of the Bag” and three other student written and directed plays will be performed 6:30 p.m. on May 11 at Hickory Grove United Methodist Church, 6401 Hickory Grove Road, Charlotte 28105. Admission is $3 per person. For information email Elizabeth Mills, email@example.com.
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