Young Playwrights Come to Avram Theater

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Students from the Ross School performing as a part of the Young Playwrights Festival in Southampton.

Six short plays written and performed by local middle school students will be presented at Stony Brook Southampton’s Avram Theater on Saturday, May 12, at 7 p.m. as the culminating event of the 2018 Young Artists and Writers Project (YAWP) Middle School Playwriting program.

Playwrights for the festival were drawn from YAWP playwriting classes at Bridgehampton, Pierson in Sag Harbor, Ross School and Shelter Island. 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, 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 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.

“Dramatic writing and production skills give young people unparalleled lessons in communication and collaboration,” Ms. 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,” Mr. 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.”

The YAWP Middle School Playwriting Festival takes place this year on Saturday, May 12, 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 william.chandler@stonybrook.edu.

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