This week I have been realizing connections with Philadelphia Young Playwrights and classes in school and things around me; not only am I involved in Philadelphia Young Playwrights, but I also take a theatre arts class at my school, Science Leadership Academy, with Mr. Mark Miles.
Mark Miles sets himself aside from just any other drama teacher. He not only helps students in his class better their characterization and stage performance but he also teaches lessons about the different types of stages and different types of scenes such as silent scenes, monologues, long scenes (about 8-10 minutes), and short scenes (about 2-3 minutes).
Currently we are working on silent scenes and I think this is a very interesting way to perform on stage. The actual movements become a lot more than just any other performance. The audience is left to analyze the piece performed themselves. The audience also has to pay a lot more attention to tiny details that “make the story” in order to interpret the performance properly and get the message that the writer is trying to convey. In order to prepare for this assignment we played some silent improvisation games which would get us ready for the larger assignment for the semester.
The larger assignment consists of every student directing a silent scene. To me, this is pretty difficult because we, as human beings, communicate through words. We are used to conveying points and ideas through words. This time we are stepping out of our comfort zones and doing it a little differently. It’s also harder because you have to make sure your story is evident to the audience so that the audience isn’t left with confusion after seeing your piece.
As I mentioned in my introduction blog, I find it a great honor to call myself a previous winner of Philadelphia Young Playwrights Young Voices High School Monologue Festival with my piece Warr Ave., a play about a teenage girl who reminisces about the death of her best friend due to the violence of a new neighbor. I wrote with the help of my Science Leadership Academy English teacher, Ms. Pahomov and General Program Manager, Genne Murphy of Philadelphia Young Playwrights and most of all, the inspiration of previous winners, Aimee Leong. With the help of these great women, my monologue was perfected into something I could be proud to say would reach the world. Recently I was given the opportunity to inspire some of the students at my school to make their own monologues.
The Young Voices High School Monologue Festival is an annual assignment for 10th graders of Science Leadership Academy in Ms. Pahomov’s English class. Luckily for our school, there is always at least one previous winner that attends our school who gets to give the current 10th graders an inspirational talk to help them with the process. When it was my year to to participate in the annual assignment, my peer-speaker was Aimee Leong, the writer of winning monologue Torn Between. Aimee spoke to us about how her process was more procrastination than anything and how her inspiration for the monologue came to her while taking the trolley to school. Her words really must have affected me because my process was exactly the same. I actually came up with the idea for my monologue while sitting outside talking to my best friend about an actual event that happened on our block.
Last week, Ms. Pahomov asked me to be the inspirational peer-speaker for the current 10th graders! At first I felt like I was the last person to give advice on how to go through the process of writing a well-thought out monologue seeing as how i procrastinated the entire time for mine but then i remembered Aimee Leong. I remembered how we both procrastinated our paper and still managed to actually be a WINNER! It was then that I compared our similar situation and realized the method to our madness: it was our real life everyday stories. When I went to talk to the 10th graders of Ms. Pahomov’s English class, I told them that the most important part that will make writing a monologue so much easier is to make your voice heard. As cliche as it may sound, it was the truth because what’s easier than just saying what you feel? I told them to think of every time they were in a situation where they could not say what they were thinking and use it as the main plot for their monologue. When the world sees their production, that person who would not let you speak your mind can finally hear you out. I hope that my words of inspiration helped them as much as Aimee’s helped me and just maybe, one of them will be giving the same speech next year to another set of 10th graders after they’ve become winners themselves.
– Nia Berry
A few weeks ago, I got the chance to experience some truly amazing works of art at New Voices: Workshop Productions, a production of the winners of the 2010 Annual Playwriting Festival on Saturday, November 6, 2010. My day began with a luncheon held for winning playwrights and their families, volunteers and staff members of Philadelphia Young Playwrights. During this delicious lunch of assorted sandwiches, chips and sodas, my partner, Alaya and I were introduced to Joseph Conners, President of Philadelphia Young Playwrights Board of Directors. This man was a delight to meet and an even greater interviewee as he talked with me about the wonders of working with Philadelphia Young Playwrights to help put on productions like the one we were seeing shortly. One thing that Mr.Conners did say that really intrigued me was that every time he comes to one of these productions, he leaves changed with more of an open mind. I later realized and experienced the feeling he was talking about after the show.
After meeting Mr. Conners, I had the pleasure of meeting a few of the winning writers: Lauren Pierre of Abuse, Jacob Fagliano of Purpose, Gina Dukes of God Makes No Mistakes, Haley Gordon of Axioms of Teenagers, and Lyn Nguyen of On the Way. It was obvious to see that these teenagers were more than excited and honored to be praised for their exceptional writing. As a fun little game for me and Alaya, we decided not to ask too many questions about the details of each writer’s play so that we could try and figure out the plot on our own while watching. It was a surprise addition to the game when we found out that the name and writer of the plays would not be announced until after the play was done and my partner and I were without a program. Throughout each play, we tried to figure out the name of the play, the plot and the writer. I personally found this very interesting because as I watched these productions and decided who the writer of each piece was to myself, I later found out that my assumption of the writer was wrong! This really opened my eyes to how diverse these playwrights are in their plays and how the playwrights feel about different topics personally. In regards to the plot of the productions themselves, I felt enlightened by the story each piece told. I had finally felt what Mr. Conners feels every year he watches these productions. The feeling of learning something new from a different point of view. Especially with Gina Dukes, who has been a good friend of mine since 6th grade and we both attend Science Leadership Academy. I was very moved by her play that tells the story of a modern day Nigerian family learning to deal with change as they learn that a family member is gay, a taboo that garners much hate and violence as punishment.
– Nia Berry
From left to right, Amy Hodgdon, Program Director; Lyn Nguyen, student playwright of On the Way; Glen Knapp, Executive Producing Director; Lauren Pierre, student playwright of Abuse, and Nancy Stuski, Chair of Board of Directors.
– Alaya White
Philadelphia Young Playwrights is performing New Voices: Workshop Productions, a production of the winners of the 2010 Annual Playwriting Festival plays Thursday, Nov. 4 at 7:30pm, Friday, Nov. 5 at 8pm, and Saturday, Nov. 6 at 2pm and 8pm. I am more than ecstatic to be able to attend and experience the hard work so many students put into these plays.
I am especially happy to be there to support Gina Dukes, writer of God Makes No Mistakes. Gina is a student of Science Leadership Academy, grade 11, and has been a good friend of mine since grade 6 . She has always been an inspiring writer and has been very enthused about getting the chance to participate in Philadelphia Young Playwrights thanks to Mr. Block, an English teacher of Science Leadership Academy. I am glad to know that Philadelphia Young Playwrights is helping her achieve her dream because Gina really does deserve it and I am truly proud of her accomplishments.
In addition to being there as a supporter, I am also going with my colleague Alaya White to get a chance to see the behind-the-scenes action of setting up for these plays. Alaya and I will be attending the Saturday matinee and the luncheon with staff and winners of Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Saturday, I plan to interview student playwrights, actors and audience members on their takes of the various plays. I also will be making videos and taking pictures to catch the general experience of putting on a great show so everyone can get a feel for the hard work and dedication of the people involved in this program. I am sure Alaya and I will have a great time together enjoying everything Saturday will have in store for us. So if you think you can make it, the Saturday, November 6, 2010 matinee performance is 2pm-4pm and the evening performance is 8pm-10pm. I assure you that you will be pleased with the work the many students of Philadelphia put together.
– Nia Berry
Nia and I are so excited to be attending the New Voices: Workshop Productions event on November 6, 2010. The event is the performance of the first place winners of the Philadelphia Young Playwrights playwriting contest. Saturday will be a wondrous event; we will be interviewing student playwrights, actors/actresses, and audience members. The luncheon is the portion of the day that I am looking forward to the most. I think it will be the most interesting because I will be able to talk to the people who wrote the plays and I will be able to ask them about the inspirations and reasons for why they wrote the plays. I would also like to ask the writers about how it feels to have a play in production. I feel as though it would be interesting to be able to talk to the directors also and find out why they set up the scene they did. I wonder if they have different reasons why they put things like movements and dialogue in specific ways to make certain things “pop out” more to the audience.
It is so exciting that one of my classmates won first place. The title of her play is God Makes No Mistakes. I am also interested in the actual acting out of the play because I am very familiar with the script because I helped Gina Dukes edit her play. We collaborated with peer editing for assignments. We preformed scenes of her play in class and gave feedback and suggestions for it. How far each student came last year just surprises me the most because I remember people who were empty handed with the entire process. Some people didn’t have any ideas while others had many, but we collectively, as students in the tenth grade, pulled through to make superb works of art. The entire process last year was very exciting and it’s even more exciting to see it on stage.
– Alaya White