Name: Zaccariah Wright
Hometown: Dix Hills, New York
Major: Cinema and media studies with a minor in consumer psychology
Can you tell us about your involvement in Mask and Wig?
I am in charge of our show in the spring, the annual production, which is a full–blown musical that we started writing the summer prior. I've just been grinding out as many bits as possible and as many songs as possible. I work hand in hand with the band to actually put together these songs and coordinate with our committee on production. I also work with our choreographer, our hired director, and our creative producer. There are a lot of people involved and a lot of moving parts.
I started my [first] year [at Penn]. Now, as the head writer, I draw inspiration from our head writer at the time. He told us to keep a log of any bits, any short story ideas, any screenplay ideas. So I did what he said and started to log any ideas I had into my notes app on my phone. I have almost 20 pages of notes. It is legit miles and miles long, just filled with different ideas. Whenever I get writer's block, I go back to that list.
My favorite bit was a little goofy. It was called Doctor Masseuse. It's about a masseuse who likes rhymes, and he creeps out his clients. They're like, "Why are you rhyming? Don't touch me." That was in our fall 2019 show.
Mask and Wig has recently made some major changes to the group, such as accepting members of all genders. What was that process like?
It was a multi–step process. Because our alumni are so involved—we call them the graduate club—we had to vote to become gender–inclusive. And of course, that had been a goal of ours. We had to take a deep look into our 130–year–long history and see where we could improve. We knew we had to implement actual changes so all genders feel comfortable in our Mask and Wig space. So that took about half a year.
We split it up into different groups to access all aspects. I was part of the product team, and I took a look at our annual production. Is the humor that we use conducive to having a gender–inclusive organization? What does what we find funny say about us as a company? All of that does have to change. Over the years, we have become a little bit better because we have definitely become more PC. I think it's a perfect direction for our group to head in.
Honestly, my entire class in Mask and Wig has struggled to implement and make these changes since our [first] year. And for this to happen at the beginning of our senior year is amazing. A few guys in our class actually cried. You're like, I can't believe I actually got this. Wow.
What was founding Screenwriters’ Guild like?
We just got this guild approved earlier this week, so that is super exciting. I took Advanced Screenwriting with Kathleen Demarco Van Cleve with my good friend Erin Brennan (C '23). We were motivated to create a space where people who want to work on screenplays can simply derive discipline, get critiques from other people, discuss screenplays outside of the classroom setting, but also meet regularly. It’s not even like a class where you have to be able to go every week. It's low stakes. We have a first meeting this Saturday with our 10–person membership.
Tell us about yourself outside of Penn and school. What makes you unique?
What makes me unique is that I've been singing for most of my life. It has been a staple since second grade. Throughout grade school, I would commute from Long Island all the way to New York City three times a week just to go to rehearsals. I traveled the world with that chorus. I feel like it made me a better musician and really opened my eyes to stuff outside the Long Island bubble. I really do feel like my experiences set me apart from the rest.
What's your most memorable experience at Penn?
I think it would be [first] year NSO [New Student Orientation]. I got close with a few people the April prior during Quaker Days and had collected some of their numbers. I texted them, and they didn't really respond, so I thought, I'm alone. I love my roommate to death, [but] I just thought, I've got to make some friends who like to go out. I remember running into this girl at Wawa, and she invited me back to meet her hallmates who were already so close. Really, I had met some stranger at Wawa and made her laugh, so I was able to come back and meet her friends. We shook hands, asked each other names, major, hometown, et cetera. And to this day we are all very, very close. Yeah, definitely that day. I don't know. It's just something about being in the Quad and meeting so many new people. Simply put, it's just an incredible experience.
What’s next for you after Penn?
Oh, that's currently up in the air. With my cinema and media studies major, I'm trying to go into screenwriting, which entails working for any major production company. I want to go into children's entertainment. I've been sending out my resume to DreamWorks, Disney, and Illumination. But if that doesn't pan out, I will be teaching for two years for Teach for America in Los Angeles. I already have my acceptance. I'm excited, especially because of the impact so many teachers have had in my life. I just felt like I had to give back.
Last song you listened to?
If you were a building on campus, which would you be?
I’d be the high rises. I love the views. I feel like if I'm the building, my eyes are toward the top, so I’d just look over all of Philadelphia.
Last death row meal?
Pizza but not from Allegro. I'm not from New York City, but I’m from New York City, and they make pizza 1000 times better. I’d say pizza from this little shop in Times Square that I used to frequent.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I'm thinking telekinesis would be really cool because you could move things with your mind. I feel like I am inspired by Chronicle with Michael B Jordan.
There’s two types of people at Penn ...
Honestly, work hard and play hard.
And you are?
Work hard. Of course, everyone to a degree works hard. We all got in here. But there are people who are just making the most of it, you know, trying to live while they're still in college, especially having a year taken from them because of COVID–19. People are seeing more concerts, trying out new restaurants, and I respect those people. I'm still in the work hard mindset because putting together this show is not easy.
This article has been edited and condensed for clarity.