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Two-time “Play with Words” winner Matilda Bray has the write stuff


“The Play That Goes Wrong”?

No, in fact, everything’s gone just about right for writer Matilda Bray.

A senior at Solebury School, Bray’s “The Finale of the Magnolia Tree” seems like just the beginning for the 18-year-old New Hope resident, already a successful literary lion and one of six winners of the Phillips’ Mill Community Association’s “Play with Words” playwriting contest.

The sextet of scribes will be honored and their plays read Sunday in an at-capacity event at Phillips Mill.

It has been two years straight of Bray earning bravas at the annual playfest, which is in its second year. The teen should be getting used to being feted by the footlights for her wizardry at wordsmithing as she enjoys the panoramic pleasures — and plaudits — of penning poetry and plays.

It all plays into what she wants to do with her literary life post-college. She’s already been accepted and offered “a full ride” scholarship at, appropriately, Bard College in Red Hook, N.Y.

“I dream to one day own a production company,” she said. “I want to produce and direct.”

She is already making a beeline for fame. Bray has two books of published poetry behind her; she was named to the Iowa Young Writers Studio, chosen out of 1,400 wannabe word-warriors; and won the Laurie Erskine Academic Award for Literature, named in honor of the late author and co-founder of Solebury School.

More than anything, she has the write stuff: “I love creative writing,” she says.

Certainly, there is a rhyme and reason to much of her work on stage and on the page. But is she a poet-playwright or playwright-poet? “I can’t label myself,” she states simply.

But there are others who label her an artist. She carries on a friendship with two literary leading lights who have served as mentors since meeting her some years back: Lorraine Henrie Lins, 2010 Bucks County Poet Laureate; and Joanne Leva, founder/editor-in-chief of Tekpoet. Both “have had powerful impacts on me as a poet.”

There are other influences, caring parents Tracy and Chris, as well as Solebury School English teachers Sarah May, head of the department, and Zack Arrington, both “of enormous help.” And she places Tom Wilschutz, head of school, at head of the class, for the concern he has for his students and the creatively crafted environment he has carved out at the New Hope school.

And then there’s Aunt Erika (Imberti), whose own writing talents serve as a source of inspiration for Bray.

But word has it that words aren’t Bray’s only playthings; she is also a standout in track at Solebury, where she also captains the girls cross-country team.

Right now, the active artist is on track for Sunday’s event at Phillips’ Mill, a major bonus to her bio added to others that include serving as ambassador of the Children’s Literacy Initiative of Philadelphia and being three-time finalist as Bucks County High School Poet of the Year.

Now, places please, the play is about to begin as Bray braves the stage for another chapter of her illustrious career as the leads alight the arena. Where will it all lead? Reminding one of her interest in one day heading up a production company — Bray loves reading movie scripts — is it possible that future fans will one day talk of the Solebury star who scripted herself a career out West?

That they will remember the Bucks County-bred Bray as the bright writer who had gone...Hollywood?

Fade in on an artist on the fast-track to fame and fandom: “I really hope so,” she says with a charmingly unscripted laugh.

For a complete list of winners and details of the event, go to:

Michael Elkin is a playwright, theater critic and novelist who lives in Abington. He writes columns about theater and the arts.

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