Red Bank Regional senior Willow Martin of Little Silver will have her short play “Late Shift” performed by the professional actors of New Jersey Repertory Company October 8. 

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

When New Jersey Repertory, the acclaimed professional stage company in Long Branch, inaugurates its new West End Arts Center facility in October, it will be with a multi-media Theater and Arts Festival organized around the theme “All About Eve.” At the heart of the eight-day festival will be the world premieres of 28 short plays — a select group winnowed from over 450 submissions — and a collection that includes a one-act drama authored by a 16 year old high school senior who attends the Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Red Bank Regional.

As the only minor whose work was selected, Willow Martin of Little Silver joins a select group that also includes a Pulitzer Prize nominated playwright (Lee Blessing), a pair of Emmy nominated performers from favorite television shows (Michael Tucker of L.A. Law; Wendie Malick of Just Shoot Me), and numerous veteran dramatists who have had their work produced on the New York stage and around the world. Her play entitled “Late Shift” will be presented as a part of a program that begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 8.

Adapted from her poem “Blood and Bleach,” which she wrote during her sophomore year at RBR, “The Late Shift” is set inside about a sweat shop toy factory in Shenzhen, China, where three female factory workers protest their treatment by a belligerent foreman; challenging the authority of their male overseer. A cast of professional players (Patricia Cancio, Lia Chang, Karl Josef Co, Virginia Wing) will perform the young playwright’s words, under the direction of Broadway character actor Nick Corley.

As part of an arts festival that celebrates the power of women to effect change, Willow’s play relates to the theme of Eve on different levels, including the fact that the dreaded late shift occurs during the dark hours on the eve of a new day. During her junior year, Willow and her fellow students were informed by their Creative Writing teacher Dr. Gretna Wilkinson that the founders of “NJ Rep” were encouraging student playwrights to submit scripts to the company’s “Theater Brut” Competition. The submission requirements included a performance time of no more than 15 minutes, with each of the writers allowed to interpret the theme “All About Eve” in their own way.

Willow was visiting colleges in Boston, and hadn’t checked her emails for a few days, when Dr. Wilkinson tracked her down and informed her that New Jersey Repertory Company had been attempting to notify her.

As Dr. Wilkinson explains, “When they found out she was only 16, they were so surprised and then discovered they needed her parents’ permission to perform her work.”

She adds, “Willow gives credence to the Samuel Ullman quote, ‘Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind,’ because she has the ability to access her creativity on a level that is unusual in someone so young.”

Willow Martin is an exceptional young person on many levels. She has made the high honor roll every semester since freshman year. She is the president of the Italian National Honor Society, a member of the National Math Honor Society, competes for RBR in the math and science leagues, and participates in the mock trial club. She is currently interning for Congressman Frank Pallone, and is a co-captain of the RBR girls cross country team.

Although she intends to major in college in something totally different than creative writing — physics or astrophysics to be precise, with the hope of becoming a researcher in the field of plasma physics/ fusion energy — she is overwhelmingly happy with her decision to concentrate on creative writing at VPA, and feels very fortunate to be in her academy.

“This program has meant everything to me at RBR,” Willow explains. “It has provided me with a wonderful support system among brilliant minds in a free environment with a great family dynamic.”

Adding that Dr. Wilkinson “has really changed my perspective on writing and the world, and has been like a second mother to me,” the RBR senior gives credit as well to the fact that the class conducts large group critiques, with her peers playing an important role in helping to develop one another’s pieces.

“The entire class is to thank for the success of this play,” she states. I wouldn’t be half the writer I am without them all….I believe it is the entire class’s victory that this play was chosen.”

Go here for ticket reservations and a detailed schedule of events in the All About Eve Festival, a benefit for the ongoing renovation of the West End Arts Center (the former West End Primary School building at 132 West End Avenue in Long Branch).