Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reflection on the Madison Young Playwrights Program from Dania Ramos

About a month ago, Playwrights Theatre concluded the 28th annual Madison Young Playwrights Program with in-school assemblies of student-written work at the participating schools. The plays at one school contained the right character combinations where we could put a cast of all female actors into place with director Dania Ramos. We asked Ms. Ramos to reflect upon this unique presentation and are happy to include her thoughts below. Enjoy!

Cast and playwrights onstage at Torey J. Sabatini School.
Today (March 20) I had the pleasure of directing four delightful scripts written by student playwrights who attend Torey J. Sabatini Elementary School in Madison. The staged readings were presented as part of the 2014 Madison Young Playwrights Program.

For those of you unfamiliar with how a Playwrights Theatre assembly works, here’s a quick run down. A director and a company of four to six actors are given the students’ scripts a few days before the performance. We meet the morning of the readings for about four hours of rehearsal. Then we show up at the school in the afternoon and the actors perform script-in-hand readings for the student playwrights, their classmates, teachers, and parents. No props. No costumes. No set.

The scripts featured in today’s assembly had a nice balance of humor and poignancy. In Rising From the Pitts by Charlotte Sullivan, a girl unexpectedly bonds with her grandmother after learning she was once a contestant on Star Search. In Benji van der Hulst’s untitled script, three brothers anxiously await the arrival of a special package in the mail. Sassyfrass Sisters by Keira Munter shows high drama between three girls at summer camp. Finally, in The Stapler’s Revenge by Artha Abeysignhe, a pair of staple removers, an exotic pen, and a ruler work together to defeat an evil stapler.

Today was the first Madison Young Playwrights Program cast to be comprised of only women. Natalie Bailey, Rosemary Glennon, Brittany Goodwin, and Summer Hortillosa are all versatile, generous actresses with a sincere enthusiasm for performing material by and for children.

People familiar with the New Jersey Young PlaywrightsContest might recognize Summer Hortillosa as a winner of the 2007 New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest in the High School Division. I remember watching (and loving) the reading of her script seven years ago. It was moving to watch Summer take the stage today and offer a new generation of young writers the opportunity to see their work come to life.  (Editor note: You can find guest posts from Summer Hortillosa on the blog: advice to young playwrights here and reflection on her experience as a NJ Young Playwright here.)

Recognizing the playwrights after the performance.
Perhaps my favorite moment of directing a Playwrights Theatre assembly is meeting the playwrights after the readings. It’s always fun to match a student’s face to script and to see each of their reactions when an entire auditorium applauds their hard work and creativity.

My Favorite Lines

Rising From the Pitts by Charlotte Sullivan
EMILY:  Star Search, what the heck is that?
SOPHIE:  It was sort of like American Idol back in the olden days.

Untitled by Benji van der Hulst
DOODLE: No…maybe…possibly…ok! Fine! It was me!

Sassyfrass Sisters by Keira Munter
LUCY:  Let’s get you cleaned up. Not everyone gets a dress from Paris.
CAROLINE: You mean, a specially-designed dress from Paris.

The Stapler’s Revenge by Artha Abeysignhe

JERSLISS: Rulers, because of their name, are rulers. It’s kind of unfair, but that’s just how it is.

Dania Ramos is a writer and a theatre professional. She has directed student work for the NJPAC’s Young Writers Workshop and PTNJ’s Young Playwrights Festivals and Language-in-Motion Assemblies. She's also a program coordinator for Montclair State University’s College of the Arts, Office of Education and Community Outreach. Dania's play Hielo (developed through PTNJ's New Jersey Emerging Women's Project) was recently named runner-up in Repertorio Espa ñol's 2013 MetLife Nuestras Voces Competition. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and a BFA in Theatre Performance from Montclair State University.

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