Emily Zhu, a rising senior at Bedford High School, was recently featured in the Lyric Stage Company’s Lyric First Page Playwriting Festival in June. Her original play, titled “Four People Walk into a Door,” was selected among record submissions to be performed at the event, together with eight other student works.
The hilarious comedy tells the story of three characters who repeatedly try (and fail) to open a random door. Over time, they become increasingly frustrated with each other, and in the end, nobody actually goes through the door. She summarized the play as “three idiots engaging in increasingly over-dramatic prop humor in a nebulous plane of non-existence,” but also said that it is a metaphor for how everyone approaches challenges in their own way.
Asked about the inspiration behind her play, Emily revealed that the idea actually came from one of her English essays.
“I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to write about,” she admitted, “so I asked one of my friends [and they] said ‘doorknob.’” After that, she took a few pieces of her essay and turned them into a full-length play.
“Four People Walk into a Door” first premiered at this year’s Bedford High School Playwrights Festival. Organized by Theater Director Katrina Faulstich, the annual event showcases plays that are written, directed, and performed entirely by students; this year’s festival included 10 plays and involved 23 students. Emily participated in the festival to be “part of something bigger than myself and create something that would allow others to smile, laugh, and enjoy” themselves. The festival was a great experience, and Emily’s play was extremely well-received.
One month later, Emily was standing onstage at the Lyric First Page Playwriting Festival. The event was hosted by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, which has been organizing festivals since 2021. Nine original short plays were read aloud, highlighting students from across Greater Boston. Emily said that she entered the competition for fun and was not expecting to be selected, but looking back, she felt “really glad that I was able to make more people laugh.”
Outside playwriting, Emily has been a long-time participant in performing arts in Bedford. She has performed in the pit orchestra for three musicals, most recently earning a TAMY Award for this year’s production of “Chicago: Teen Edition,” and she served as Student Producer for “Murder on the Orient Express” in the fall. Emily is an accomplished pianist and plays violin in the BHS Chamber Orchestra. She is currently attending a pre-college program at UMass Amherst.
Reflecting on her passion for theater, Emily says that it has always been a break from everyday life, which can be especially stressful for high schoolers. It provides an “escape from reality [by showing] a brighter, more optimistic side of the world” for both writers and viewers – this is one of the reasons why she enjoys writing comedies. In her own words, “What is theater if not the culmination of people working together to achieve something beautiful?”