A play written by a Red Bank Regional High School student has been selected to be performed by a professional theater company.
“The Late Shift,” written by Red Bank High senior Willow Martin, was performed at the New Jersey Repertory Theatre in Long Branch on Oct. 8. According to district administrators, Willow’s work was one of 28 plays selected by the Repertory Company out of 450 submissions, and was the only selection by a writer under the age of 18.
Willow’s play is based on her poem “Blood and Bleach,” which covers the issue of labor, with a focus on Chinese factories and, according to district administrators, depicts three female factory workers in China who defy a male overseer. It was directed by Nick Corley and starred Virginia Wing, Lia Chang, Patricia Cancio and Karl Joseph Co.
The inspiration for “Blood and Bleach” and its subsequent theatrical adaptation came from Willow watching a clip of a reporter venturing inside of an Apple factory in Fox Con, China during her sophomore English class.
“It was chilling to watch the workers be treated as if they were little more than machines,” she said. “Their jobs were dehumanizing in their simplicity. I was especially struck by the mention of the ‘suicide nets’ constructed around the external walls of the building, meant to catch workers who attempt to jump to their deaths.
“I wanted to tell a story to combat ignorance, to arouse discomfort. This gruesome truth is an integral part of our modern reality. It’s easy to forget the lives of people living in another hemisphere. But these people stitch our clothes, build our phones, assemble our toys. They are an integral part of our lives, yet their lives are seldom brought up in conversation. But it’s much more difficult to forget a face, a story.”
“The Late Shift” is the first play from the Little Silver resident, who primarily writes poetry and short stories.
“I tend to prefer potent brevity as a writer,” Willow said.
She credited Gretna Wilkinson, her creative writing teacher, as a major inspiration on her writing.
“Dr. Gretna Wilkinson inspires me to not only push myself as a writer but as a human,” Willow said. “She has helped open my perspective and trained my eye to see the extraordinary in that which is seemingly mundane. I look to her for guidance. She is to thank for any and all success I find as a writer, for without her my life would be radically different.”
“I would also like to thank my creative writing class for all their support,” she said.
Having begun writing at an early age, Willow intends to continue writing and submitting plays of her own to competitions. Literature, however, is not her intended career path.
“I intend to major in either physics or astrophysics in college as an undergrad,” Willow said. “I am absolutely mesmerized by the universe and its dynamic nature and I am without shame in my nerdiness. In the future, I’d either like to work for NASA or do research on plasma fusion energy.”
Nevertheless, having her play selected for a professional performance is an experience she looks fondly on.
“I’m so grateful to the NJ Repertory Theatre for the opportunity to share this story,” Willow said. “When my teacher notified me that my piece has been selected for the festival, I was in Boston with my family touring campuses. I’m absolutely in awe to be in the company of such accomplished writers as fellow playwrights.
“It is humbling to work with such an incredible director and talented cast. I’m honored and astounded to be in this position,” she continued. “Now, as the play is soon set to go on, I hope to pay homage to voices that have gone unheard.”