Mia Weathers, Programs Intern (Science Leadership Academy/11th Grade)
About a week and a half ago in history class we were told that we would be attending the New Voices Student Matinee performances. My teacher, Mr.Block, told us that these performances would give us an idea of what we would soon be working on. Science Leadership Academy, along with many other schools is participating in a playwriting residency, wherein everyone in our class will be creating our own original plays. I couldn’t help but think that the plays we were going to be watching would be typical “high school plays,” plays that would only show the most juvenile issues of our day. Something like: boy meets girl, girl likes boy, they fall in “love”, they break up, etc. I have never been more excited to say that I was completely off base. The plays that I was so fortunate to see that day were brilliant!
I was so impressed that the plays touched on themes such as ignorance, friendship, self-knowledge, and dealing with conditions beyond your control. What was even more amazing was that all of the plays were written by people my age. At some point recently they were in my shoes with just an idea. Seeing the successes of your peers really makes you think about what you can accomplish yourself. That, to me, is the most important part of showing these plays to other students. It’s as if the playwrights are saying, “I wrote this great piece of work, and so can you!” In high school we are mostly told of all the opportunities we will have later in life. PYP gives us something to achieve now which is really encouraging.
After the performances (3 plays and 1 monologue) there was a talk back with all of the actors and two of the playwrights. I should start off by saying that I love talk backs! It’s not very often that you get to pick the brains of people who have accomplished your goals. As an aspiring actor and maybe playwright I put high value on their thoughts. We asked many questions. To the actors it was mostly about how they immersed themselves in their roles. Especially the ones more difficult to play such as the boy with severe OCD or the really horrible friend. They told us that in every character there is something that you have to connect to even if it’s just the smallest thing. To the playwrights we asked how they came to write such inspiring plays. Byshera Williams wrote the play Star Dance which touched on addiction, unhealthy homes, love,OCD, and much more. We asked her how she came up with the idea and she said it developed over time. She wrote the first edition of her play sophomore year and continued to work on it until it was performed this year (her senior year). She really emphasized the importance of the process and how nothing is going to be perfect the first time but once it’s written you have already jumped the biggest hurtle.
As a new intern at Philly Young Playwrights, I have the privilege to see a little of what goes on behind the scenes. This year in my history class I will be required to write a play. It’s nice to already have seen the way the plays go from script to stage. A few times I have had the pleasure of sitting in on rehearsals between actors performing the winning monologues and the director. Getting to witness the process I or my classmates may soon go through is certainly advantageous and for that I am very grateful.
Overall, New Voices is a great program. As I enter my personal writing phase I am motivated by the thought of those who I have been successful before me.
My name is Tom Gugliuzza and I am one of five fellows in the Paula Vogel Mentors Program. With this program, I was able to participate in rehearsal and attend a performance of How To Break, written by my mentor Aaron Jafferis. These experiences gave me a lot to think about in terms of my own writing and work in the world of theater. I was amazed by the amount of progress that the actors made in the week between the rehearsal that I attended and the performance on that subsequent Saturday. During that rehearsal, there was still some work to be done. That Saturday was the first run through of the entire play as a whole unit. This is a milestone for any rehearsal period because it showcases all of the work done up to this point by the actors as well as showing the blocking or movements on the stage. The actual performance which was hosted by the Arts For Healing Festival in New Haven, Connecticut, mixed the fast paced dance and verse of Hip Hop culture with the traditionally slow and steady method of the medical world. Both before and after the performance, I was able to talk with Aaron and the full cast to gain a better understanding of the work as well as becoming more acquainted with the fantastic actors and stage manager that brought the work to life.
The main thing that this play brought into focus for me however was the idea of using music within my work. Traditionally, my writing has not included any instructions as far as music is concerned. This oversight on my part has left one of the few avenues of speaking with an audience without the use of the actors onstage rather dull in my previous works. I will certainly incorporate this lesson into my future works which hopefully will be created soon.
Goodbye for now dear readers and hopefully I will update you soon!
To read more on How to Break visit http://www.aaronjafferis.com/shows/break/
Paula Vogel Mentors Project is made by possible by the generous support of the Independence Foundation New Theatre Works Initiative, the Nessa Forman (& Family) Fund at The Philadelphia Foundation, and Honorary Producers, Virginia & Harvey Kimmel.