YAWP Festival Highlights Student Work

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Six short plays written and performed by local high school students will be presented at a playwriting festival at Stony Brook Southampton’s Avram Theater on Saturday, December 14, at 7 p.m. as the culminating event of the 2013 Young Artists and Writers Project High School Playwriting Program.

The playwrights were drawn from YAWP classes at the Bridgehampton School, Sag Harbor’s Pierson High School, Southampton High School and Eastport South Manor High School, as well as from a scriptwriting retreat attended by students from Southampton and Pierson high schools, the Shinnecock Nation, and the Foreign Language Academy of Global Studies in the Bronx.

A playwright from Eastport South Manor High School who participated in the YAWP summer program at the Stony Brook Southampton campus will also have his play produced as part of the festival.

The festival represents a collaboration among student playwrights, actors and designers who have been taught and mentored by theater and writing professionals affiliated with Stony Brook Southampton’s master’s program in creative writing and literature, which created and sponsors the YAWP programs. Professional directors stage the plays, which encompass a wide 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 programs send professional writers and teaching artists into classrooms to lead workshops in a wide range of writing disciplines, including playwriting, screenwriting, poetry, personal essay and fiction, as well as visual arts.

More than 100 students participated in the high school playwriting residency this fall. Over two months, they explored 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.

YAWP is led by executive director Emma Walton Hamilton and program director Will Chandler. Ms. Hamilton is a bestselling children’s book author, editor and arts educator as well as a co-founder of the Bay Street Theatre, where she has served as its co-artistic director and then as director of education and programming for young audiences for 17 years.

Mr. Chandler, an American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship screenwriter, also served as education director and as a teaching artist for the Bay Street Theatre.

“Dramatic writing and production skills give young people unparalleled lessons in communication and collaboration,” Ms. Hamilton said. “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,” he 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 fourth annual YAWP Playwriting Festival will be held at the Avram Theater, in the Fine Arts Building on the campus of Stony Brook Southampton, 239 Old Montauk Highway, Southampton. Tickets for the performance are free. For reservations and more information, email william.chandler@stonybrook.edu.

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