Pillsbury’s Play Staged at Dallas Children’s Theater

Senior Samantha Pillsbury, one of Hockaday’s own actresses and playwrights, recently made her public debut, at the age of 18, in the Dallas theater scene.

Her original play Complicated, inspired by real-life teen experiences, was performed at Hockaday in the fall and premiered at the Dallas Children’s Theater on February 14 as part of the Teen Scene Festival.

The month-long Festival featured professional productions about issues in the lives of teenagers like learning differences and dating violence. Pillsbury’s play, which focuses on the complexities of teenage relationships, fully encompasses the program’s agenda.

Complicated addresses various kinds of teenage relationships and the emotions that accompany them. It includes long distance relationships, close friendships and secret crushes, along with the love, disappointment, confusion that seem to always be a side effect.

Senior Sarah Stewart, who saw the play at Hockaday, affirms, “any teenager can relate to the situations in the play, even the more serious ones like suicide. This play helps open up discussion about the complicated issues that might otherwise not be talked about.”

Samantha laid the groundwork to perform her play on a professional stage during the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest Fine Arts Festival in Spring 2010 when she first performed scenes from Complicated with Hockaday alumna Laura Payne ‘10.

Later, when Pillsbury was volunteering at the DCT, she saw her adjudicator from ISAS. After talking with him, he helped her contact Nancy Schaeffer, Director of Education at the DCT, about performing Complicated there. Although the DCT had already set their schedule for the 2010-2011 season, Schaeffer offered to feature Samantha’s play during the Teen Scene Festival.

Schaeffer says, “The mission of the Teen Scene Festival is to provide meaningful programming that focuses on some of the issues that many teens face. Since her show deals with teen dating issues, it was a perfect fit.”

The original cast performed at the Festival, although DCT professionals ran the lights and sound. The actors were Hockaday seniors Alicia and Chelsea, junior Regen, St. Mark’s seniors Alex and Christian and Greenhill senior Brett.

The cast recognized this performance as a pivotal moment in Samantha’s directing career and fully supported her endeavors. Alex describes it as “her debut as a professional writer” and Snipes adds that she knows “how hard it is to get stuff together and put it out there.”

Samantha, has put over a year of effort into preparing this play. She began working on Complicated in summer 2009 at an acting conservatory in France. For a class assignment, she wrote a one-woman scene about a painful experience where a boy called her profane names over a text message. Over the course of the program, Samantha wrote more scenes, many of them based off her experiences. She “tried to be as true to real life as possible because that’s when an audience will connect most with the show.”

Eventually she realized that the scenes shared a common thread: the issues that arise in teen relationships. This inspired her to connect the scenes into a cohesive piece, Complicated.

At the beginning of her junior year, Samantha began the editing process. She sent her work to her friends and asked for their revisions. Once she was satisfied, she sent it to her teachers from the acting program for their final seal of approval.

Then she approached Hockaday Fine Arts Chair Ed Long about performing her piece at Hockaday. Along with drama teacher Susan Hubbard, Long planned for Samantha to direct her play in the fall of 2011.

“Most years at least one out of the three One Acts are original works by students,” Hubbard says.

Samantha began casting her play in May 2010, although she already had certain actors in mind for some of the characters. Many of the actors were her close friends which, according to Chelsea, made it “easier because she trusted us all.” The actors rehearsed through the summer and performed at Hockaday in fall 2010.

Complicated was received well by the Hockaday community, and everyone recognizes Samantha’s theatrical accomplishments. Long praises her ability to “catch the flavor and language of the time and yet maintain values in drama that are timeless.”

Alex adds, “It’s not your typical high school show. It’s complicated.”

That is exactly what Samantha wanted her audience to understand.

“Everybody has something about their life that’s complicated,” she declares.