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At 16, playwright emerges

Andy Orrell, pictured above, stars in Hugo, a play by Jonathan Van Gils, a rising junior at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg.

Courtesy of Studio@620

Andy Orrell, pictured above, stars in Hugo, a play by Jonathan Van Gils, a rising junior at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg.


Jonathan Van Gils — JVG is his professional screenwriter moniker — is only 16 years old but is a playwright ready for the debut of his work Hugo.

It opens Friday at the Studio@620 at 7 p.m.

Van Gils, a rising junior at Shorecrest Preparatory School, said it took him three years to write Hugo.

Originally a screenplay, it was adapted as a play by the show's director, Bob Devin Jones.

The play is about a filmmaker who is writing an in-depth, freelance article about homelessness for the local newspaper to earn some extra money.

All the while, Hugo is living with the Producer, an old friend who sells drugs, produces movies and is formerly leader of the band, Snack Attack. The Producer has dreams of taking over the world.

Hugo and the Producer find themselves in constant conflict over their lifestyles, dreams and, especially, the main love interest, Rachel, a young college student with cinematic aspirations.

Jones said the play combines adult issues with the characteristics of a drama intertwined with comedy, which, he says, proves that the young Van Gils already thinks like a playwright.

"I thought it was important to give him an opportunity," said Jones, who has been directing since the 1980s. "It's a very accomplished play for a young man."

Jones also said the most pleasing part of directing the play has been seeing the cast "get off book," or go through scenes without needing the script.

"It's having my initial thoughts confirmed," Jones said, "why we should be doing this play."

Van Gils said he wants the audience to have fun and connect with a character, scene or song.

He said the play mixes music, characters and visual images for something unique.

"There is a lot of uncharted territory," he said.

Eddie R. Cole can be reached at or (727) 893-8779


All about him

What: Hugo, a play about a young, homeless filmmaker

Who: Written by Jonathan Van Gils, age 16, and directed by Bob Devin Jones

Where: The Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S

When: 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $10

Contact: (727) 895-6620 or

At 16, playwright emerges 05/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2008 4:46pm]
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