Intrigue and scandal aren't limited to the realm of national politics.
Shady maneuvers are bound to follow whenever power is at stake, whether it's a position on a city council or a post on a small-town zoning board. Catherine Novotny, a 15-year-old freshman at Grandview High School, saw dramatic potential in such machinations. Her original one-act play simply titled "Election" takes cues from the most popular political thrillers of film and television and moves them to a more familiar context.
"I love politics," said Novotny, who cites social studies as a favorite school subject. "I wanted a teen perspective on it. I thought of a teen election, and how a cheating scandal could corrupt it."
Her play tracks Adam and Fallon, two high school students tasked with uncovering a cheating scandal at their school. Novotny penned the piece as an assignment for class, satisfied that she had completed her first formal play. Novotny didn't expect much of an audience for the work that features only seven main characters and that takes place entirely in hallways of a high school.
But the audience for "Election" is set to be much bigger than her teacher and her peers. Novotny is one of three finalists in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' 2014 Regional Youth Playwriting Workshop and Competition. Her play will be read by professional actors during the Denver Center Theatre Company's annual Colorado New Play Summit later this month.
In beating out dozens of playwrights from across the state, Novotny earned a $250 scholarship for herself and a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for her theater teacher, Brianna Lindahl. What's more, if "Election" wins the top prize among the three finalists later this month, the Denver Center Theatre Company's education department will mount a full production of the show starring teen actors.
All of the success has been surreal for Novotny, who wrote the play with little in the way of expectations.
"Honestly, I just wanted to finish it," Novotny said. "I never pictured that I could be a semi-finalist, let alone a finalist ... I just had this idea. It had been in my mind for weeks and weeks. I just finally put it down on paper. Just finishing it was an accomplishment for me."
She chalks up her success in part to the guidance and support of Lindahl, who encouraged Novotny to bring her own creative interpretations to the craft and discipline of theater.
"That's what theater is about," Novotny said. "It's about taking someone else's words and making them your own. I'm excited to see what people take from my words."
All of the recognition that followed the completion of "Election" has expanded Novotny's ambitions. She sports a wide smile when she speaks of future projects, and she speaks with unmistakable eagerness when she talks about seeing more plays and brainstorming with other playwrights.
Even so, the budding writer hasn't made too many formal plans regarding future projects. She's still invested in the immediate future of "Election," a work that sprung from sudden inspiration.
"I've been so caught up in this experience that I'm just going to ride it out until I get a new idea," Novotny said. "Those kinds of ideas just come to me out of nowhere, so I'm going to let that happen."