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North Springs HS Graduate Wins State Playwrighting Award

Nina Schwelm

Nina Schwelm 

Nina Schwelm, a 2021 North Springs High School graduate, is an award-winning playwright. This spring, she was named one of three student winners of Georgia Film Academy’s (GFA) statewide Dramatic Writing 10-Minute Play Competition. Established in 2020, the contest is adjudicated by industry professionals.

For her dramatic writing class exam, students were challenged by North Springs drama teacher Joel King to answer a question in the form of a play. Nina already had writing and media experience from involvement in the school’s literary magazine and news broadcast. Her question, "Are letters across the sea enough to keep the spark of a relationship aflame?" became her play’s thesis. “Across the Sea” tells the story of a marine stationed on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan and his girlfriend living stateside in an urban metropolis. The prize for winning entries is a staged reading by professional actors over Zoom planned for autumn of 2021.

Nina drew her inspiration from two former marines she admires, her grandfather and actor Adam Driver, as well as Driver’s wife, actress Joanne Tucker. Driver and Tucker co-founded Arts in the Armed Forces, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that brings free arts programming to active-duty U.S. military and veterans. “I wanted to find a way to honor them,” Nina said.

GFA Director of Academics, Dr. Aaron Levy, said of Nina’s play, “It was really theatrical. She chose an idea that was well-suited for the competition. The characters were three-dimensional and fleshed out.” In a nod to King, he affirmed, “She was clearly taught well.”

North Springs is one of a growing number of schools in Fulton County and across Georgia that offers the course to be taught by teachers like King who complete GFA’s training. Developed in partnership with the Georgia Department of Education and Fayette County Schools, the course meets state standards for English Language Arts. It debuted in the 2018-2019 school year and can be taught by English, theatre and audio, video, television and film (AVTF) teachers. According to Levy, GFA has trained 193 teachers from 60 districts, and this year, over 6,300 students completed the course.

There is a Teacher Competitive Writing category, and Johns Creek High School English teacher Evan Deis won for his play “Social Cues ‘N You,” a tribute to awkward teenagers and their patient mentors.