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A Conversation with Kid Playwrights

Meet these award-winners at Twin Beach Players Kids Playwriting Festival

Six young playwrights (front left to right): Megan Cashman, Abigail Petersen and Adriana Money; (back left to right): Madeline Viteri, Chris Skarin and Anna Gorenflo.

Love, not money, sparked 21 kids to seek spots in Twin Beach Players’ annual Kids Playwriting Festival.
    Lots of love as each had to write a play.
    The $100 prize money was a bonus, all six finalists agreed.
    But competing in this festival is the highpoint of the theater life for stage-smitten elementary, middle and high schoolers in Chesapeake Country.
    Comedy, tragedy or farce, it’s up to them. Likewise, subject is up to each playwright. The one condition is time limit.
    High schoolers get 25 minutes; middle schoolers, 20 minutes; and elementary schoolers, three to 10 minutes.
     You — and I — will see the results on opening night, August 2.
    As staging began, I talked with the playwrights to learn what makes them tick.
    Anna Gorenflo of Northern High, 17-year old author of Checkmate, is just back from two weeks of summer camp in the music theater class at the Maryland Summer Center for the Arts in Salisbury.
    “I had the idea of doing the sequence of a person’s life through the eyes of an inanimate object,” she told me.” I happened upon a chess festival in a park in New York City and that was my inspiration to write my play.”
    Writing her one-act play took only an hour. Good thing as she waited until an hour before deadline. That’s confidence born from experience. “Acting has been my passion since age five,” she said.
    This is her third year winning a slot in the playwright festival.
    “It feels magical, all the ideas coming to life on stage, watching it unfold before your eyes,” she said.
    Fifteen-year old Chris Skarin, Gorenflo’s campmate and Northern High schoolmate, also gave himself a few hours to write Promlems, a Homecoming Promedy.
    “I’ve done it all with theater,” he says cockily. “I started backstage, went onstage and write screenplays for fun. I find it challenging to form the concept of how I make it real, but keeping it short.”
    Short is a problem even for a kid of his experience. To stay in limits, “I had to cut out two scenes,” he said.
    “I wanted to write a drama, but my strength is comedy. I ended up with a romantic comedy.”
    Madeline Viteri, 12, of Severna Park Middle School, travels the farthest for dress rehearsals and performances.
    “In fifth grade, two years ago, I had a playwriting assignment. I did a really good job on it, and my mom and teachers encouraged me to keep writing,” she said.
    It took her two days to write Booked, her Twin Beaches’ winner.
    “My inspiration? I thought it would be fun to get transported into a book, like a Harry Potter story. The most challenging part was naming the play.”
    Madeline aspires to Broadway.
    “This is step one for me,” she says.
    Abigail Petersen, 12, of Windy Hill Middle School, wrote Help from Above to combat bullying both at home and school.
    “I usually write plays as a hobby,” she said. “This time, I decided to enter. My sister won last year, so I said why not?”
    She finished in three days, basing her dialogue on her brother and sister fighting over the remote.
    Adriana Money, 10, of Northern Middle, won for Finding her Way.
    “I write a lot of stories, but this is my first play,” she said.
    Walt Disney was her inspiration.
    “I love all Disney movies,” she told me. “I think they’re cool, but the prince always saves or rescues the princess at the end. So I came up with a little twist. You’ll have to see the play to find out what it is.”
    Megan Cashman, nine, of Beach Elementary School, wrote The Princess and the Cat.
    “My cat was my role model and inspiration,” she said. And maybe her brother and sister, too. Both have won earlier Twin Beaches’ competitions.
    But, she said, “I did it because I thought it would be fun.
    “My play has one of the bigger casts. I had 11 characters. My hardest part was finding the kid actors for the characters.”

•   •   •

    If these kids write as well as they talk, their plays will be worth watching.
    Twin Beach Players Youth Group director Regan Cashman is impressed.
    “They are all fabulous writers and actors,” she says, with a touch of envy appropriate to a playwright who “started writing in 10th grade” and didn’t get produced until last October.

See for yourself August 2 thru 11. FSa 7pm; Su 3pm at North Beach Boys and Girls Club, North Beach. $5: www.twinbeachplayers.com.

Great job kids, Have a great festival and enjoy as you learn. Wish I could be there and see your works, but, over 400 miles away, I can only send my best wishes.