Scout Erby (left), winner of an honorable mention prize at the 2017 Young Playwrights Festival, with her mother, Lisa Erby

Parents may think they know their children better than anyone else, but every year at Florida Studio Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival, they are often dumbfounded by their kids' imagination. According to Caroline Kaiser, who has been Florida Studio Theatre's director of children’s theater for four years, 2019 will be no exception, as invited audiences can look forward to watching two delightful anthologies of youth-written plays on Saturday, May 18, in the Keating Theatre. The plays, winners of the annual young playwriting competition, were selected from over 6,000 submissions.

The Young Playwrights Festival is a celebratory affair designed to honor the impressive creative talents of young people ages 5-18. It is the culminating event of the theater's Write a Play program, a year-round arts initiative in which students are taught how to write a trenchant play. Saturday’s festivities will kick off with a professional performance of the first anthology of plays, titled Making History, which includes 11 plays written by students in grades 7-12. This production will be followed by a second anthology, A Beary Big Adventure & Other Winning Plays, which includes 12 plays written by playwrights in kindergarten through sixth grade. The two productions will last approximately two hours in total, and the young playwrights, sitting alongside their families, will have the opportunity to see their creations brought to life. After the performances, Florida Studio Theatre will hand out prizes.

A scene from A Beary Big Adventure & Other Winning Plays

The theater received many more submissions for the competition this year than it had in recent years, especially from secondary school students. Kaiser credits that to the success of the Write a Play program, during which actors teach students about basic storyline elements like character, setting, conflict and dialogue.

Florida Studio Theatre partners with Sarasota and Manatee County teachers for Write a Play, and provides teaching residencies in cities such as Camden, New Jersey, that help teachers there learn how to teach playwriting skills to their students. It also pairs up with Sarasota’s sister cities to get students in foreign countries writing plays—often in their second language. As a result, young playwrights from all over the world are invited to Florida Studio Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival to share in the celebration and see their work performed.

For more info about Florida Studio Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival, visit the theater's website.

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