Six short plays written and performed by East End middle school students, representing the culmination of 2019’s Young Artists and Writers Project (YAWP) Middle School Playwriting program, will be presented at Stony Brook Southampton’s Avram Theater, 39 Tuckahoe Road, this Saturday, May 11, at 7 p.m.
The plays selected for this year’s festival were written by playwrights in YAWP classes at Bridgehampton, Ross School and Shelter Island, along with one student from Hampton Bays who took part in the 2018 YAWP Summer Scriptwriting Workshop. Tickets to the performance are free.
Each year, the Middle School Playwrights Festival results from a collaboration between student playwrights, actors and designers taught and mentored by theater and writing professionals affiliated with Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program, which created and sponsors YAWP. Professional directors stage the plays, which comprise an array of genres, from comedies to dramas, with subject matter drawn from the students’ lives.
According to Stony Brook Southampton, YAWP is all about mentoring middle and high school students and developing creative expression and critical thinking through writing. The program is an integral part of the school’s commitment to the community and to the next generation of readers and writers. 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 over the course of two months this spring. Students explored basic elements of dramatic writing, learning how to develop ideas, characters, themes, dialogue and scenes. One play from each participating class was then selected for production in the 2019 Festival.
The Young Artists and Writers Project is helmed by Executive Director Emma Walton Hamilton, a bestselling children’s book author and co-founder and former co-Artistic Director of Bay Street Theater; and Program Director Will Chandler, a former Bay Street Education Director and screenwriter who has written screenplays for clients ranging from Sony Pictures to actor Russell Crowe, among others.
“Dramatic writing and production skills give young people unparalleled lessons in communication and collaboration,” Hamilton says. “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.”
“When we go into schools, we work closely with classroom teachers as we convey the basic elements of dramatic writing,” Chandler added. “Learning dramatic writing is a great way to improve overall writing skills, but what we’re really teaching them is that each student has a ‘voice,’ and we want to hear it.”
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Learn more at stonybrook.edu.