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Staples Grad Lives Dream in NYC

Imagine writing a screenplay, then seeing it come to life at an off off Broadway theater. Former Westporter Amy Holson-Schwartz, 26, realized that dream this summer.

A 2002 Staples High graduate, Holson-Schwartz watched her first full-length play, "Can I Really Date a Guy Who Wears A Yarmulke?" run for five performances at the Beckett Theatre in Manhattan as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival in July.

"It was amazing," Holson-Schwartz said. "You start with rehearsals, and you're sitting there, watching actors breathe life into thoughts that were in your head — it's indescribable."

The inspiration for the play did not come from a bad dating experience, it came from a Birthright trip.

"A Birthright trip is when young Jews are sent to Israel for a week-and-a-half for free," Holson-Schwartz said. "It was the most difficult vacation I ever went on. When I got home, I was turned off by Israel and Judaism."

Though the trip played a major role in the play's development, a good-looking stranger on a subway is what set it into motion.

Shortly after returning from Israel, Holson-Schwartz was riding the subway when "a really cute guy got on and sat next to me." Then she noticed his yarmulke.

"I thought to myself, 'Why should I be turned off by that?'" she said. "That's when the idea to write about what it'd be like to date a guy like him popped into my head."

In addition to being a playwright, Holson-Schwartz, who now lives in New York, is the executive director of a small theater company called Festival Arts, which she co-founded in 2005. But having had a taste of Broadway, Holson-Schwartz said she's looking for her next idea.

"I'm sort of living day-to-day, so I'm not sure what'll happen next," she said. "It's exciting and scary."

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