STEM school student wins playwriting contest

Eighth-grader looks to his grandmother as inspiration


For the first time in its eight years of recognizing young playwrights, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) recognized talents at the middle school level. Eighth-grade STEM School Highlands Ranch student Sam Routzon said he is honored to be one of the finalists.

In 2021, DCPA selected the top high school and middle school playwrights as part of the AT&T High School Playwriting Competition. After only judging high school work since 2013, the DCPA said in a news release that the growing popularity of the program pushed them to expand it to middle-school students.

The program offers free playwriting workshops, plus professional review of all playwright submissions. The winning plays will be included in the 2021 Playwriting Anthology.

This year, DCPA received 129 total submissions, 75 from high schoolers and 54 from the middle-school level.

Routzon, 14, said he was honored to be one of the three finalists selected in the inaugural middle-school category. The eighth-grader said he wrote the play in the fall for submission and was surprised when he received notice that he won.

“I really turned it in and had forgotten all about it until they wrote me and said I won,” he said.

Routzon was honored for his work titled “Silver Storm. The one-act play was inspired by Routzon's grandmother, who died when he was 6. After getting more interested in writing while taking a creative-writing course in third grade, Routzon said he wrote “Silver Storm,” his first play, about a grandmother and grandchild sitting together during a blizzard. The two sat reminiscing about the child's grandfather who had died.

Routzon said he wanted to take a dark but sentimental angle, noting that as the grandmother sits there, what the grandchild does not know is that his grandfather is communicating through the flames in the fireplace.

“His spirit is inside the fireplace and the grandmother keeps talking to him,” Routzon said. “I wanted the spirit to be warm, so I made the grandfather's spirit come through the fire. The fireplace is warm and comfortable.”

Routzon said his creative side comes from the time he spent with his grandmother, noting that besides watching “Scooby Doo together, she also introduced him to musicals, including “Mamma Mia.”

“In watching them with her, I found my love for musicals and plays,” he said.

With the recognition from the DCPA, Routzon said he will “definitely” keep writing.

“I have contemplated writing a novel,” he said. “I want to write more plays and stories."


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