The recent Parker alumna talks about her award-winning play script, “Feliz Cumpleaños”

By Matthew Piechalak | [email protected] 

Jordan Marie Finley ’19 was just settling into her new life as a freshman at UC Santa Barbara last summer when she received word: a script she had written while at Parker had been selected in a prestigious statewide contest. 

Jordan’s script, “Feliz Cumpleaños,” was one of four winners in the 2019 California Young Playwrights Contest and would receive a full professional production at the Playwrights Project 35th annual Plays by Young Writers festival. The event was held Jan. 29 through Feb. 1 at the Salvation Army’s Joan B. Kroc Theatre in San Diego. 

Contest winners were selected by professional judges from 561 plays submitted blindly by California students. 

Jordan, a Writing & Literature Major, spoke with Parker School News prior to the festival to talk about her winning submission. 

What is the plot of “Feliz Cumpleanos?”
It’s about a high school junior named Camila Valentina and her older brother, Santiago. It revolves around events that happen on Cami’s birthday–the anniversary of their parents’ deportation–and her struggle to navigate her high school relationships.

 Where did you draw inspiration for your main characters, Camila and Santiago? 
I was in Mrs. [Elise] Marinkovich’s acting class during my senior year and she gave us the assignment to write a three-minute scene. In every neighborhood, in every school, there is a Camila and a Santiago. They are smart, they are tenacious, they are funny, they are beautiful. They live here, they love here, and they belong here. 

When did you write the script? 
I began writing it in Mrs. M’s acting class senior year and finished it last May.

What was your reaction when you found out you won?
I was very surprised because I originally only submitted it for feedback. I wasn’t thinking I was going to win. I’ve never written a play or script. I figured I must doing something wrong. When I found out, I was confused, shocked, and very excited. I had just arrived at UC Santa Barbara. It was an interesting way to start college–knowing you are going to be a professional playwright.

What are the next steps for your script? 
There are a few San Diego colleges that have expressed interest in producing it. One is Southwestern. Hopefully, that’s the next step for it. The characters are high-school-aged and relatable. It’s kind of political, but it’s also a piece about what it means to be human. It would be really cool if schools would want to produce it because it’s a relatable script.

 Describe your creative writing process
It depends on what I’m writing–I mostly write poetry and when I do, I don’t plan it at all. It’s more just how I process things when I’m feeling them. For playwriting, I always write character breakdowns before I begin–how old they are, their personalities, and objectives.

 What does Parker mean to you? 
I keep in touch with my English teachers. Those were some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve ever made, period. Of course, I keep in touch with the Drama Club. Also, a lot of people I met through being a WARLord. That was the single most beneficial thing about Parker. It’s insane the opportunities you have being a WARLord and how much it helped me transition into the adult world. It prepared me so well.

 What are your favorite types of stories? 
Ones that make me laugh or ones that completely haunt me after the end. Art is supposed to be enjoyable and to mean something. Your audience needs to be taken out of the world. When it’s done well and people are passionate about it, that’s the power of theatre. I don’t have a favorite type of story, really, I just know how I feel when I’m watching and more importantly, how I feel after. 

Finally, a few rapid-fire questions…

What is a movie you can practically quote from start to finish? 
“Back to the Future” 

What is your favorite place to write? 
Sunset Cliffs

What is your dream job?
To be a writer and actor for Lucas Films.

What is your hobby? 
Finding ways to attend obscure Hollywood events 

Photo below by Ken Jacques