Mariposa playwright finds success

Sun-Star correspondentNovember 16, 2012 

Bryan Starchman attended UCLA, majoring in American literature, with an emphasis on dramatic writing.

At age 19, he was offered a job with Fox Studios. But considering the pressure required to make the big money, he declined and finished college.

His first play was produced at USC. After college he returned home to substitute teach at Mariposa County High School, where he had graduated four years earlier.

He wasn't sure what direction to go in, but at the high school he discovered he enjoyed teaching. Still writing, he was granted permission from school administration to produce one of his plays. He put the money earned back into the drama program.

"The plays I found weren't funny," he said. "Just cheesy and melodramatic. I wanted to write plays where the kids sounded like kids."

Starchman's play, "Shalloween" got a great response from the Mariposa audience. That was in 2004.

He sent the script to 10 publishers, and got nine rejections. The one and only letter of acceptance came from Eldridge Plays and Musicals, a company in Florida. The letter is now framed and hanging in Starchman's classroom.

Eldridge likes his sense of humor and has been publishing his works ever since. Starchman's work can be found at Eldridge's Web site, www.histage.com.

Starchman was only 24 years old. He beat his goal of being published before turning 30 by six years. Two of his plays were published with Big Dog Publishing.

"I've learned what high schools are looking for," he said.

Typically there are more girls in a drama program than guys, so cast size, scenes and roles should be flexible. Plays should give directors options, and provide opportunities for the less experienced actors to develop their talent.

Now surrounded by the best critics in the world, his students, Starchman writes plays teens can relate to.

His plays have been performed in 48 states and seven countries, in high schools and by community theater groups. At last count he has a total of 1,115 productions of his 15 original plays.

Teaching high school drama has been great experience. For Starchman it created a built-in workshop. For the kids, drama helps them get comfortable in their own skin, while also learning how to communicate.

He encourages advanced drama students to write for competitions and try to get published. Two of his former students are in film school at USC.

Starchman has plans for the future. A couple television plots are in the works, plus a screenplay. And he and his wife, Noel, are hoping to join the Peace Corps.

This weekend at the high school's Fiester Auditorium, Starchman's "Parents Just Don't Understand" will be on stage. This play features a collection of hilarious scenes that come too close to the truth about family relationships involving teens.

Performances are scheduled for today, Saturday and Sunday. Showtime today and Saturday is 7 p.m., and on Sunday, 2 p.m. The school is at 5074 Old Highway North, at the east end of Eighth and Ninth streets. Tickets are $6 for general admission, and $5 for children, students and seniors. This show is rated PG.

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