Area high school and middle school students will get a chance to have their plays performed by the Temple Theater students on stage at Tomlinson Theater this December.
Seven students from local schools won their chances from the Philadelphia Young Playwrights, an organization that works with area students to develop their creative abilities.
By sending local professional theater artists into the classrooms and giving them the chance to produce their plays, Philadelphia Young Playwrights hopes to teach children expression through writing, which will also strengthen their literary skills.
For 16 years, the organization has held a region-wide festival where kids can submit their plays to be judged by a committee of teachers and theater artists.
This year, between 800 and 1,000 students submitted their plays and received constructive feedback on their work.
First place winners will have their plays performed on stage from Dec. 4 through Dec. 6.
For the past three years, Glen Knapp has been the executive director of Philadelphia Young Playwrights, taking over the position after founder Adele Magner passed away in 1999.
Knapp believes the organization has the ability to transform students who get to participate in the process of seeing their play come to life.
“It’s one thing for a kid to write a play, but when they hear someone else speaking what they wrote, it’s the physical realization that people are listening to what they have to say,” Knapp said. “That’s a powerful moment.”
He said the program brings together kids who come from different backgrounds, who have an automatic connection, because they understand what the process is like. There is a real sense of community and celebration.
“One of our goals, in a sense, is for kids to develop an awareness of diversity and a tolerance,” Knapp said.
David Ingram, Assistant Professor of Theater at Temple, is in his third year of working on the performances with Philadelphia Young Playwrights.
He will be taking over for Theater Director Joseph Leonardo after his retirement at the end of the semester. Ingram said the students who win at the festival are not the only ones who learn something from having their plays acted out on stage.
The Temple students who perform the staged readings experience the creativity of the talented youth.
“[Temple students] get an appreciation for what the kids are able to do. That’s the whole point of Young Playwrights,” Ingram said. “Students always end up being very impressed by these scripts.”
The actors also get a chance to work on their acting with the professional theater directors from local theater companies. Selected students, who have not gone off to college, participate in the rehearsals and work with the Temple student performers.
Rehearsals were completed in 20 hours as the cast came together to practice the 45 one minute acts. There is minimal costume, set and lighting. The actors perform with the script in hand. The actors even read stage directions to let the audience imagine what is happening on stage.
“The range of subject matter is really striking,” Ingram said. “I think the audience will be surprised and delighted by what student playwrights have to say and by the sophistication of this.”
Torin Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org