Synkroniciti is thrilled to announce the winner of our “Curiosity” Short Play Contest, John Patrick Bray’s “Buckle.” We had several strong contenders but selected “Buckle” on the strength of its storytelling and characterization. Star and Jen are teenagers–one well-off from town, one more “rough” from Brooklyn–back in 1994 and they are breaking into their high school to get a look at the test Mrs. Beck will be giving the next day. You may be lucky enough to remember the time before the Columbine shooting, when most of the stress we felt in school was from academics, hormones and peer pressure. Security at schools was extremely relaxed; being shot wasn’t something that we thought or worried about. Star and Jen think they are being bad, but they are actually curious and naive. When they find the test, it turns out to be an essay test on Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz.” Reading the poem together–it is a thinly veiled testament to child abuse–the girls find out more about each other than they expected. (Ah yes, poetry can be dangerous!) Star and Jen are fully nuanced characters; John takes the time to build them and we see their personalities bubble to the surface slowly. He shows us who they are rather than telling us, and we have a rich sense that there is more going on that remains unspoken. This a portrait of youth with all its curiosity and potential paired with a lack of confidence in its purpose and direction against a backdrop of unspoken truths. All homes have strangeness and stress, and we all are alternately curious and uncurious about one another in very illogical ways. Currents of empathy, curiosity and attraction spar with our desire to belong and to conform. It often ends up making us lonely. John illustrates this deftly, without virtue-signaling.
John P. Bray is a playwright, independent screenwriter, freelance anthology editor, and a once-upon-a-time bagel baker (New Paltz Bagel Café, a truly wonderful place!) His plays have won the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights (Friendly’s Fire, published with Next Stage Press), and have been a Semifinalist for both the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and Ashland New Play Festival. Bray was also a Semifinalist for the Princess Grace Foundation Playwriting Award. His co-written feature film Liner Notes can be streamed on Amazon. He has an MFA in Playwriting from The Actors Studio Drama School at The New School and a PhD in Theatre from LSU. John teaches at the University of Georgia. www.johnpatrickbray.com