Gunn alumni pause to reflect on their high school experiences: Holly Wright

Joshua Yang, Forum Editor

There is enthusiasm in Holly Wright’s voice as she describes one of her latest projects, an adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play “Titus Andronicus” from the perspective of the
character Lavinia. Wright, who graduated from Gunn in 2014, isn’t new to such an endeavor: as a New York-based theater director and play- wright, she’s had experience working on a variety of different projects. Indeed, much of Wright’s works have a common theme running throughout. “My personal passion is giving a voice to women,” she said.

In pursuit of that goal, Wright has written plays stemming from her research in the area of social media anxiety for young women, which she first conducted as a junior at Gunn. “I created a survey asking [Gunn] students and alumni between the ages of 18 and 26 to give me some examples of how they felt going through a highly rated, high-intensity public school district and how it affected not only their time in school, but their time after school,” she said.

Afterwards, Wright went on to write “TRIGGER WARNING: A Play about Youth and Stress / Or, Seeking Perfection: The Story of a Young Girl,” which incorporated the results of the study. “I created a 20-minute play that was very abstract and designed to be performed with a cast of five young adults,” she said. “[The play was] to be followed by a talkback that the young adults in the cast would lead with the community to facilitate a conversation on how pressures to succeed affect their day-to-day ability to function.”

As a senior at Pace University, Wright sent out a second round of surveys to continue in the same area of study, subsequently penning a second play. “I created a movement piece called ‘MASKS: An Ode to Young Women,’ that was presented at the Dyson Fellows Conference in the spring of 2018 and wrote an accompanying 30 page research paper,” she said.

Much of Wright’s passion for theater can be attributed to her time at Gunn, as she fondly recalls. “My junior year, I auditioned for the fall play with [theater teacher James] Shelby, which was ‘Arabian Nights’ by Mary Zimmerman,” she said. “He called me that afternoon and asked me if I would be interested in being his student director. The play was a series of vignettes, and he even offered to let me direct one or two of the vignettes. That was the launching point for who I am today, because it was my first experience directing theater and I really fell in love with it.”

Since then, at university and beyond, Wright has only solidified her passion and further developed her voice. “I’m such a different person from when I went to Gunn,” she said. “I definitely feel like I’ve found my voice a little bit more than when I was in high school. I’m not afraid to speak up for what I believe in.”

Wright stressed seeing the broader perspective. “It’s important to know that no matter where you end up immediately after high school, there are amazing things coming,” she said. “I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. There’s always something brighter just ahead.”