This group of high school playwrights had their work brought to life by professional actors

Nate File, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Lifestyles

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philly born, Pulitzer-winning playwright Charles Fuller didn’t start writing plays until he was an adult. These high school students are getting a head start.

Philadelphia Young Playwrights, a organization that has taught Philly youth the art of playwriting since 1987, held its Spring Showcase earlier this month. At the event, professional actors read and performed the plays that high school PYP participants have been working on for several weeks.

“It’s so special to the students to see their work read out loud,” said LaNeshe Miller-White, the executive director of Philadelphia Young Playwrights. “A group of adults who respect them and their work... I think is always something that is amazing for them and brings so much pride to the students.”

Eight students in the PYP program this spring had excerpts of their plays read at the showcase.

Their work ranged from monologues to full scenes, with subjects exploring both real-life dramas and the fantastical. The formal readings by the local professional actors followed an open-mic portion, where other students were free to present their own playwriting, too.

Miller-White said that while many Philadelphia students may have a theater program in their schools, they don’t often get the chance to write and perform their own stories.


“Usually they’re producing an already-created play. [Here], students have the opportunity to tell the stories they want to tell, showcase their voice and what they feel [is] important to them ... [they] learn that their voice means something and that their stories mean something.”

Skylar Clemens, a 10th grader at TECH Freire Charter School in North Philly, wrote a play about a girl who escapes an abusive household and goes on an adventure to find a new, better home. It’s the first play that Clemens has ever written, but she said that she’s had the idea for the story for a long time.

Before this experience with PYP, Clemens said that her theatrical interests were focused on acting. But now, she thinks that playwriting may be her best fit.

“After all the hard work that’s gone into writing, just seeing it performed would be pretty cool,” she said before the showcase.


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