Tuesday, March 11, 2014

theatre notes. young playwrights program, I & II

Last weekend I went down to see the Young Playwrights Program at ACT. The previous fall some 200 students had participated in a city-wide theatre workshop, writing their own plays with the help of Seattle theatre artists. The program is led by the incredible Anita Montgomery, ACT’s literary manager and education program director. In addition to all this, she is unquestionably one of my favorite directors, tough and gentle at the same time, and extraordinarily open.

The eight plays chosen from that initial 200 were presented by various directors and actors, working closely with the young playwrights, who ranged in age from about 12 to perhaps 17. I was staggered by the array of talent before me; these kids were stunningly articulate, smart, hilarious, and heartbreaking. There were lighthearted mysteries and scathing social commentaries and meditations on life and death. I could see how these actors and directors gave their own shape to the words from these young writers, but they were true to their individual voices. The topics were often somber, but as grownups we forget that even the young are not too young to understand that the world can be a dark and complicated place.

What did I know then, that I’ve since forgotten? Did I know then, as these preteens and teenagers grasped so vividly, that out of the tangled maze of the world that surrounds us sometimes, art and its creation are like Ariadne’s thread leading us away from the Minotaur, back out, blinking, into the sunlight? Maybe I’ve always known this. Maybe this thought has followed me, always. Art is a solace, a companion, a guide, a mirror inward and outward. I hope these students will keep writing, or at least look back and remember how to put into words all the joys and pains of life, and then move on.

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