Clarissa Mullig

By Clare S. Richie

A 15-year-old goes to the grocery store to pick up a few items for her mother and reluctantly interacts with a meddling adult store clerk. This outing would appear mundane on the surface, but was internally troubling to Clarissa Mullig – Grady High School’s STAR student and award-winning writer. Retelling the story with humor became the inspiration for her highly praised original play.

Two years ago, as a 10th grader, Mullig brought this personal experience to the Grady Playmakers free workshop with her play, “In and Out.” With the help of volunteer professional actors and directors, this intense weekend culminated in a staged reading of her eight-minute play.

“It’s a chance to bring your play to life. I think that’s a magical experience for anyone, especially a young writer,” Mullig said.

During the workshop, she added Social Anxiety as a third character in order to vocalize the fears running through her main character’s head.

“Many of our professional adult actors and directors commented on the depth and sophistication of Clarissa’s writing, as well as the honesty in her work,” said Megan Cramer, a Grady alum who founded and leads the Playmakers workshop. “We have all had those nagging and powerful voices in our head. Clarissa showed us that practicing that dialogue with ourselves – challenging those inner voices – is an important gateway to change and growth.”

A staged performance of ‘In and Out’ at Grady High. (Photo courtesy Ben Grady)

“In and Out” had legs beyond the workshop. The play had three more full-stage productions in three different Georgia cities. This past month, Mullig directed Grady student actors at the Thespian Conference Playworks in Columbus, Georgia and Woodstock’s Elm Street Theater produced the play with their own actors and director as an opening act to their main stage show.

This experience may explain why Mullig, who initially dreamed of writing young adult fiction fantasy novels, fell in love with the theater.

“When you are a playwright, you’re creating something that will be recreated again and again – assuming people like your play and want to do it. It’s new every time and it’s a very collaborative process,” Mullig said.

And her theater talents are not limited to being a playwright. She’s comfortable both on the stage as a lead actor and behind the scenes as crew chief or working other aspects of technical theater.

“It’s what I tell freshmen: just try everything,” Mullig said.

That’s what’s worked for her. She has thousands of hours in the Grady theater program as a self-proclaimed “actor-techie hybrid.” She has also written for The Grady Southerner and serves as co-editor of The Grady Nexus magazine. Her varied experiences in high school mean she has many options for what to pursue in college and beyond.

“The reason I can’t boil down my interests into one thing is that I just really like everything. I like writing outside of theater, playwriting, management stuff for tech, running lights, designing, building, and directing. I also really love acting.   I probably won’t do every single one of those things as a career but at college I can explore all those things and probably narrow them down.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.