Five short plays written and performed by local middle school students will be presented at Stony Brook Southampton‘s Avram Theater on Saturday, May 20, at 7 p.m. as the culminating event of the 2016 Young Artists and Writers Project (YAWP) Middle School Playwriting program. Playwrights for the festival were drawn from YAWP playwriting classes at Eastport South Manor, The Ross School, Shelter Island School, and the YAWP Summer Conference session.
This year, YAWP has entered into a new partnership with GoodCircle, a crowdfunding platform that brings businesses, individuals and nonprofit organizations together to raise funds and awareness for specific, tangible projects.
Speaking about the partnership, GoodCircle Co-Founder Joan Overlook noted that “YAWP is raising money to fund scholarships and expansion in three additional schools. To ensure YAWP’s transformative creative writing programs can serve even more young people, we are currently looking for business partners for this project.”
The Middle School Playwrights Festival represents a collaboration between student playwrights, actors and designers who have been taught and 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. 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 Middle School Playwriting Residency this spring. Over the course of two months, students explored the basic elements of dramatic writing: how to develop ideas, characters, themes, dialogue and scenes. One play from each participating class was then selected for production in the Festival.
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.
For ongoing curriculum development and program design, the YAWP administrators look to the Stony Brook Southampton MFA faculty, including novelist and MFA Director Robert Reeves; Whiting Award-winning poet Julie Sheehan; best-selling memoirist and editor-in-chief of The Southampton Review, Lou Ann Walker; and screenwriter and Emmy Award-winning producer Annette Handley Chandler.
“The YAWP programs are a wonderful way for us to reach—and to help shape—the next generation of American writers,” said Reeves, “as well as an ideal way to offer training and teaching experience to our very talented graduates and graduate students.”
The YAWP Middle School Playwriting Festival takes the stage Saturday, May 20 at 7 p.m. at the Avram Theater in the Fine Arts Building on the campus of Stony Brook Southampton, 39 Tuckahoe Road, Southampton. Tickets for the performance are free. For reservations and more information, email [email protected].