New Voices theater series gives Philadelphia’s youngest playwrights a stage

Arts / Article

Photo: A production of “Finding Hope” by Rachel Nunez at the 2014 New Voices: Workshop Productions. Photo via Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ blog.

Despite what its name might imply, Philadelphia Young Playwrights isn’t solely focused on developing the next generation of dramatists. Instead, the Knight Arts grantee uses the process of writing scripts and bringing stage productions to life as a means of instilling a love of learning in elementary, middle school and high school students. By engaging local youth, their families and the larger community in the creation and performance of live theater pieces, Philadelphia Young Playwrights helps its students develop important skills like literacy, collaboration, creativity and responsibility.

Started in 1987 by Adele Magner, Philadelphia Young Playwrights has been helping students take their ideas from the classroom to the stage ever since. Its core program is classroom-based: an artistic team, comprised of a classroom teacher and a theater professional, leads students to develop original content. At a minimum, participants write one scene, but many students complete an entire one-act play.

A production of “Don’t Title Me” by Ellery Schiller at the 2014 New Voices: Workshop Productions. Photo via Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ blog.

After they have written a play, area students are invited to submit their finished works to the Annual Playwriting Festival, where the Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ Literary Committee reads each play and provides individual, written feedback to all students that submit an entry. Some of the winners are then invited to join the Play Development Series and produce and perform their original work for live audiences–the final step in a process the group describes as going “from page to stage.” A number of Philadelphia Young Playwrights alumni have even gone on to win Young Playwrights’ national competition, which culminates in having their plays produced in New York City.

From Oct. 1-10, Philly residents have an opportunity to attend public performances of 2015’s festival-winning works. During New Voices: Workshop Productions, undergraduate theater students from Temple University perform plays written by middle and high school students at the university’s Randall Theatre. There are two bills spanning three different plays each. Tickets are free, but you must reserve a spot ahead of time on the website.

For elementary and middle school students who are not selected for New Voices, Philadelphia Young Playwrights facilitates staged readings with Temple University actors during a Saturday Reading Series. The reading series begins Oct. 24 and runs through January at the Black Box Theater at Asian Arts Initiative, with coffee and a discussion kicking things off at 10:30 a.m., and readings slated to begin at 11 a.m.