By Becca Jennings
Viviana is a normal fifth grader. Her favorite colors are robin’s egg blue and sea foam green. In her spare time, she enjoys reading Harry Potter and playing with her dog, Millie. She also really likes watching random videos on YouTube.
But unlike most fifth graders, Viviana is an award-winning playwright. In fact, Viviana has won FST’s annual youth playwriting competition for the past three consecutive years—that’s more times than anyone in the program’s 28-year history.
Founded in 1991, FST’s WRITE A PLAY program is an award-winning, year-round arts-in-education initiative that provides the example, the inspiration, and the skills for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade to write their own original plays.
“Through this program, we have touched the lives of over one million children to date,” said FST Director of Children’s Theatre, Caroline Kaiser. “In a time when education can become bogged down with test scores and bureaucracy, this enrichment program reminds students and teachers about the importance of creativity in the classroom.”
Viviana entered the program in second grade. With titles like Princess Poetry Saves the Day, Recipe for Friendship, and A Beary Big Adventure, Viviana’s winning plays all have one thing in common. “They are all inspired by things that have happened in my life, personally,” said Vivianna.
But for this 10-year-old, playwriting is more than just a school assignment for a grade. “I like writing plays because it gives me a chance to express how I feel. I’m kind of a quiet person, naturally, so it gives me a chance to say how I really feel through the dialogue of the characters in the play.”
Winning playwrights have their plays selected out of thousands of submissions to be mounted in a professional production presented by FST with real life actors. What’s it like to win FST’s young playwrights competition?
“Well, I was actually pretty excited.” said Viviana, “Like, I was really, really excited. When you see your play, you just don’t think it can get any better, and then it just does! It makes me feel like I’ve really done something that…I want to say is important.”
There’s no doubt FST’s WRITE A PLAY program has had a positive, and important, influence on Viviana. It makes you wonder, would Viviana have ever discovered playwriting if it wasn’t for Florida Studio Theatre? “I would say probably not,” she said.
“These arts integrated learning opportunities are more important than ever as we’re seeing them cut from more and more school budgets,” added Kaiser.
This year, Viviana submitted her fourth play to the writing competition. “It’s about a girl who was kind of like a bully, and in a dream she goes inside her heart, and it’s dirty and it smells bad, and it’s got cobwebs, and there’s no light,” explained Viviana. “So, the other character tells her that she can change all that by just being nice and apologizing. And when she does, she has a dream, and goes back into her heart, and it’s shiny, and it smells like cookies!”
Each year, the WRITE A PLAY program culminates at FST’s annual Young Playwrights Festival, where hundreds of students, their families, educators, playwrights, and prominent theatre artists travel from across the state and as far away as Russia, Scotland, Italy, and Israel to see and celebrate the outstanding plays created over the course of the year. In a final ceremony, winners are presented with a certificate and Medal of Honor for their participation in the program.
We invite you to join us starting March 30 to see this year’s winning plays named after Viviana’s winner from last year, A Beary Big Adventure, and see if her most recent work, A Matter of the Heart, wins this year. For tickets to A Beary Big Adventutre & Other Winning Plays, click here.