Six original short plays by local high school students who took part in Stony Brook Southampton's Young American Writers Project High School Playwriting Program will be presented Saturday night at the college campus in Shinnecock Hills, directed by professionals.
Taking place in the Avram Theater, YAWP's fall festival includes works by students from Bridgehampton, Pierson, Southampton, Ward Melville, Eastport South Manor and Westhampton Beach high schools. The plays run the gamut from comedy to drama, with subject matter drawn from students' own lives, according to YAWP.
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Theater and writing professors and professionals from Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program mentor the student writers, actors and designers. Among the instructors this year were novelist and MFA Director Robert Reeves, Whiting Award-winning poet Julie Sheehan, best-selling memoirist and editor-in-chief of The Southampton Review Lou Ann Walker, and screenwriter and Emmy award-winning producer Annette Handley Chandler.
YAWP is lead by Emma Walton Hamilton, the executive director, and Will Chandler, the program director — both experienced writers and educators.
“Dramatic writing and production skills give young people unparalleled lessons in communication and collaboration,” 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.”
Chandler added, “When we go into schools, we work closely with classroom teachers as we convey the basic elements of dramatic writing. 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.”
One play chosen for the fall festival was by a Ward Melville High School playright who took part in YAWP's summer program, while the other five were generated from the inaugural YAWP High School Playwriting Residency, in which more than 100 students participated. More plays were anticipated for the festival, but Superstorm Sandy forced YAWP to postpone its annual week-long Playwriting Retreat, according to the college.
YAWP is now branching out, and the acronym is taking on a new meaning. "Young American Writers Project" will now become "Young Artists and Writers Project," to reflect YAWP's foray into the visual arts.
“YAWP’s expansion is a reflection of the expansion of the graduate arts programs at Stony Brook Southampton to include theater and film MFA degrees as well as visual arts programs,” Hamilton said.
The event begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free. All are welcome. For reservations and more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.