The brown clasped envelopes, each containing 9-12 original plays, were passed among the long tables. The plays had titles like: “Sloth and Frog” and “Helping the Environment.” Twelve judges representing area professionals in playwriting, theatre and education worked diligently for four hours, each critiquing at least three separate packets of plays. 119 plays in all.
The hours ticked by.
The silence was gripping and punctuated by the turning of pages or the sounds of penned comments etched onto the crisp paper of the critiquing forms. Small groups of judges huddled at times and worked as a group to sound out combinations of letters forming unfamiliar words or reading sentences without the unfamiliar words…eventually discerning the context. Every word of every play had importance and no word was changed. The sanctity of each playwright’s work was kept in tact.
When the last packet was completed, two judges meticulously tallied the scores and arranged the plays in order of points scored. Dinner was served in the steamy room and at 6:30PM the judges exited. It was June 21, 2008 — Fort Wayne, Indiana.
June 26, 2008 in an equally steamy auditorium in Huntertown, Indiana four professional actors stood waiting for their cue. They were cast to portray characters in one of the winning plays. One was a talking tree, two were little girls swinging from the limbs of the tree and the other, a man who played four different lumberjacks. Later these actors would take to the stage to perform another winning play about the importance of recycling trash. A young boy who littered went to jail for a whole day.
July 2, 2008, Zion Lutheran Academy, Fort Wayne
Two additional winning plays were performed by another cadre of professional actors. Two actors portrayed a sloth and a frog stung by bees while foraging in a forest for carrots and tomatoes and pineapples. Another actor played the kindly but flustered doctor who hoped to remember his bumblebee medicine as he hastened to their rescue. The second play included a dog whose conscience was better than his master’s when it came to stealing a CD; however, when his master’s hair fell out and her fingernails disappeared …“she never stole anything ever again. THE END”
119 playwrights from K-5th grade
Four winning plays performed (on short notice) by all for One:
“Helping The Environment” by Matt Dammeier – Our Hope Clubhouse
“Recycling Trash” by Felicia Balsamo – Our Hope
“The CD That She Had to Have” – Noelle Turney Zion Academy Clubhouse
“Sloth and Frog” – Nia Ruffin – Zion
Four honorable mention plays:
“How JayJay Learns to Recycle and Help the Community” Alison Carpenter – Our Hope
“The Recycling Plan” Brooke Fields – Our Hope
“Two Animals Fighting” Peyton Mann – Zion
“At the Park” Jazmen Pickering – Zion
Who could have known what to expect from this summer’s test drive of the Young Playwrights Festival?
Could kindergarten students actually write a play? Would we be able to read the plays if they did? Would K-5 students create plays, with potential for staging, in two weeks? Would we do the plays justice with so little time between determining the winners and performing the plays?
In the end, every question was answered with a resounding YES and Rebecca Sanchez’s amazing ability to milk every possible nuance out of a child’s play made the hastily put together performances reach their full potential. It was a great experience to judge the first 119 plays by young playwrights and to look into the faces of 8 children as they received a framed certificate of accomplishment and new values-rich books chosen for their reading level.
Thanks Dr. David Smith, Great Lakes Pediatric Surgeons, for underwriting this first year of the Young Playwrights Festival. Thanks Rebecca for your passion and ability to take a child’s words and bring them to life in ways that amaze, affirm and nurture the next generation of story-tellers. Thanks to the judges for giving us a large part of a summer’s day and treating these plays as if Neil Simon had penned them himself. Thanks to Lisa Fabian, Allen County Educational Partnership, for securing the prize winning books at a great discount! Now we wait to see what God will do this coming May 14-17, 2009 when 13 winning plays are produced from the work of hundreds of K-12 students from the Metro FW area. THE END.