Setting the Stage
Creativity comes out to play in Twin Beach Players’ Kids
For stage-smitten elementary-, middle- and high-schoolers, winning a spot in Twin Beach Players Kids Playwriting Festival means they’ve made it to the All-Star Game. The nine-year-old competition — open to all school-age children in Maryland — gives kids their moment to shine with an added bonus: $100 for top six winning plays.
But it’s love, not money, that sparks these playwrights.
“Twin Beach Players came up with the concept of the Kids Playwriting Festival to get more children involved in the theater world and to give them a place where they can show their creativity and foster a learning of playwriting and theatre,” says Val Heckart, half of this year’s new pair of Youth Troup directors.
The playwrights pick the drama, be it comedy, tragedy or farce. Subject is up to them, too.
The one condition is time. High schoolers get up to 25 minutes; middle schoolers up to 20 minutes; and elementary schoolers three to 10 minutes.
Competition is getting tougher. This year, 25 plays were entered, four more than last year.
We see the results on opening night, August 1, under new directors Rob and Val Heckart, a dynamic-duo husband and wife team with theater in their blood.
Rob’s many roles have included flying as a private pilot, fighting crime as a Baltimore County police officer and jousting as a Medieval Times knight. He fills his free time with directing, acting and doing everything else needed by Twin Beach Players.
“My full-time job as a software engineer and my new position as Youth Troupe director take every minute of my time,” Rob said.
He’s not complaining. He wrote his first play in elementary school and loves bringing kids up in theater. His wife Val shares his love of theater. The Heckart children have inherited their parents’ love of theater.
Like dad, son Dean and daughter Danielle have caught the acting bug and seek the spotlight. Mom and son Drew prefer backstage duty. The balance makes a whole play.
From their family base, the Heckarts reach out to theater prospects far and wide.
“Rob and I want kids to learn everything they can and be prepared to go into the field of theater already knowing the terms and how things are done and what needs to be done if they choose to go into it as a career later in their lives,” said Val.
As the kids mature in comfort and self-esteem the Heckarts find their reward.
“We had a fourth-grader with a learning disability who went from a crying, shy kid to the star of the show,” Val recalled. “If we do it for just one kid, that does it for us.”
“We knew we can take them all the way through,” Rob said.