The Theater Project, Union County College's Professional Theater Company, has announced this year’s winners of its annual Young Playwrights Competition. Four winners were selected and their original plays will be performed on Sunday, March 6 at 3pm by The Theater Project’s company of professional actors.
The prize-winning young playwrights are:
o    First Prize: Janine Puhak – resident of Cranford, student at Mount Saint Mary Academy in Watchung
o    Second Prize: Lauren Friezo – resident of Montclair, student at Kimberley Academy in Montclair
o    Third Prize (tie): Victoria Grayner – resident of Dumont, student at Dumont High School in Dumont
o    Third Prize (tie):  Arthur Mezzo and Melanie Cuccioli – residents of Mountainside, students at Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights
These students will be receiving savings bonds as prizes prior to seeing and hearing their winning plays being performed by The Theater Project. The performance is open to the public and will take place at 3pm on Sunday, March 6 in the Roy Smith Theater at the Cranford campus of Union County College, 1033 Springfield Avenue. Admission is free. The production will be followed by a lively discussion with the playwrights, actors and audience.

The competition was open to New Jersey residents in secondary schools (ages 13 to 18). Student playwright Janine Puhak will receive a $600 savings bond for being selected as the first prize winner. Second prize winning playwright Lauren Friezo will receive a $400 savings bond, while third prize of a $100 savings bond each will be awarded to Victoria Grayner and to co-authors Arthur Mezzo and Melanie Cuccioli.

The efforts of three additional student playwrights will also be saluted on March 6 as Honorable Mentions and will receive citations and gift certificates. These winners are:
o    Nicole Jaeckel – resident of Green Brook, student at Mount Saint Mary Academy in Watchung
o    Mariel Kennedy – resident of Watchung, student at Pingry School in Martinsville
o    Sean Pollock – resident of Mountain Lakes, student of Mountain Lakes High School in Mountain Lakes
The goal of the Young Playwrights Competition is to encourage the next generation of theater practitioners and audience by honoring their work and bringing it to life. The competition was founded eight years ago and continues to be funded thanks to the generous donations of Linden resident Bill Mesce, Jr., an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. Kevin C. Carver of Hillsborough generously donated his time and energy to again coordinate this year’s competition’s submission and review process.
“This is truly one of the highlights of the year for all of us at The Theater Project,” said Mark Spina, Artistic Director of The Theater Project. “We once again received so many wonderfully written scripts and the community can certainly be very proud of our area youth. We are really looking forward to showcasing these up-and-coming playwrights and giving their original provocative pieces a deserving spotlight on our stage.”
Additional information is available at or by calling (908) 659-5189.