Song & Stage

See the 8th Annual High School Playwrights Festival on December 10

Six short plays written and performed by local, NYC and international high school students will be presented at Stony Brook Southampton’s Avram Theater on Saturday, December 10, at 7 p.m. as the culminating event of the 2016 Young Artists and Writers Project (YAWP) High School Playwriting Program.

Plays for the festival were drawn from YAWP playwriting classes at Pierson High School and Eastport South Manor, the YAWP Summer Workshops at Stony Brook Southampton, and the recent YAWP Scriptwriting Retreat, which included students from Pierson, the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF) in New York City and Robert College of Istanbul, Turkey.

The festival represents the collaboration between student playwrights and actors who have been mentored by theater and writing professionals affiliated with Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, which created and sponsors the YAWP programs. Professional directors stage the plays, which encompass an array of genres— from comedies to dramas—with subject matter drawn from the students’ own lives.

The Young Artists and Writers Project is dedicated to mentoring middle and high school students in the development of creative expression and critical thinking through writing, and is an integral part of Stony Brook Southampton’s commitment to its community, and to the next generation of readers and writers. The YAWP programs send professional writers and teaching artists into classrooms to lead workshops in a wide array of writing disciplines, including Playwriting, Screenwriting, Poetry, Personal Essay and Fiction.

More than 100 students participated in the YAWP High School Playwriting Residencies and Scriptwriting Retreat this fall. In the school-based residencies at Pierson and Eastport South Manor High Schools, students explored the basic elements of dramatic writing—how to develop ideas, characters, themes, dialogue and scenes—over the course of two months. One play from each participating class was then selected for production in the Festival. Retreat participants comprising students from Pierson, the Harlem Educational Activities Fund in New York and Robert College of Istanbul, Turkey, accomplished the same curriculum over a concentrated period of 5 days on the Stony Brook Southampton campus.

The Young Artists and Writers Project is helmed by Executive Director Emma Walton Hamilton and Program Director Will Chandler. Hamilton is a bestselling children’s book author, editor and arts educator and serves as director of the Southampton Children’s Literature Fellows Program.  A co-founder of Bay Street Theater, she was the theatre’s co-artistic director and subsequently director of education and programming for young audiences for 17 years. Chandler, an American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) Nicholl Fellowship screenwriter, also served as education director and as a teaching artist for Bay Street Theater. He has written a number of screenplays for clients ranging from Sony Pictures to actor Russell Crowe and has been a story analyst/script doctor for ABC, CBS, NBC, Viacom and HBO, among others.

“Dramatic writing and production skills give young people unparalleled lessons in communication and collaboration,” Hamilton said. “They build confidence, and have a direct impact on young people’s abilities to become engaged and compassionate citizens in later life. This project represents a wonderful synergy between all the creative disciplines and values about which we are passionate.”

The YAWP High School Playwriting Festival takes place December 10, 2016 at 7 p.m. at the Avram Theater, in the Fine Arts Building on the campus of Stony Brook Southampton, 239 Old Montauk Highway, Southampton. Tickets for the performance are free. For reservations and more information, email william.chandler@stonybrook.edu.

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