WRITE A PLAY Knows No Boundaries

FST’s award-winning arts-in-education program, WRITE A PLAY, is reaching beyond Florida’s borders yet again!

At the end of January, FST sent three Teaching Artists—Sarah Durham, Shelby Lynhall, and Kate Walsh—to Camden, NJ, for a week-long residency at Holy Name School. In just five days, they led the entire school through the full WRITE A PLAY program, which normally takes place over the full school year. By the end of the week, the trio provided hundreds of students with the example, inspiration, and skills to write their own original plays.

“Youth education is centered on the ‘how to’ of the world: how to write, how to spell, how to add and subtract,” said Kate Alexander, who created WRITE A PLAY over 30 years ago. “Often it isn’t until we are in college that we’re are taught how to think. This is precisely what WRITE A PLAY does. It helps children become aware of their vivid imaginations and endless creativity and then shows them how to write those thoughts down.”

FST Teaching Artist Kate Walsh writes a play with a class at Holy Name School in 2022. Photo by FST.

On the first day of the residency, the three Teaching Artists performed The Write Stuff for the entire school, setting an example for students of what a play looks, sounds, and feels like. All of the plays featured in The Write Stuff were written by students the same age as the audience — from a play called The Land of Yes, in which a family travels to a place where it’s impossible to say “no,” to Popcorn, where the main characters are popcorn kernels.

Next, the Teaching Artists led each class through a specialized workshop exploring the four key ingredients to writing a play: setting, character, problem, and dialogue. After learning about these four key components, each class worked together to write an original play as a group.

Then, students were given time to put pen to paper and write their own unique plays.

Finally, the Teaching Artists collected all of the plays and spent an evening reading through each and every one of them. They selected a few winning plays written by students in K-5 as well as 6th through 8th grade.

FST Teaching Artists Sarah Durham and Shelby Lynhall work with a class to write a play together. Photo by FST.

The residency came to a close with staged readings of the winning plays for the entire school. But that was not the end for all of the creative tales the students of Holy Name School crafted. Along with their winter coats, the Teaching Artists brought all of the young playwrights’ imaginative work back with them to Sarasota, where they were submitted to FST’s annual youth playwriting competition.

The 2021-2022 school year marked the fourth time that FST has brought WRITE A PLAY to Holy Name School. This residency would not have been possible without foundational support and the generosity of individual donors.

If you are interested in supporting WRITE A PLAY, please contact Melody Mora-Shihadeh at Melody@FloridaStudioTheatre.org.

Header Picture (Left to Right): Ben Southerland, Emma Barishman, Jamie Molina, James McCormack, Liam Tanner, Erin Paxton, and Liv Wilson. Photo by Matthew Holler.