‘Dream Come True’

Young Playwrights Awarded At Chautauqua Institution

Yamil Santiago, Katherine Lundmark, Alvianna Matson, Giovannie Jackson and Austin Belin.

Fletcher and Love Elementary School third and fourth graders were recently crowned Young Playwright winners at Chautauqua Institution. The students were participating in The Young Playwrights Project that also includes: Chautauqua Lake, Westfield and Panama Elementary Schools. Fletcher School’s winners were: Katherine Lundmark, Alvianna Matson and Giovannie Jackson. Love Elementary School’s winners were: Yamil Santiago and Austin Belin.

“I was excited to win,” said Fletcher Elementary School fourth grader Giovannie Jackson, who also won for the play he wrote last year. “They came into our classes and taught us how to write a play and act out our stories. It was fun to go to Chautauqua last year and see my play because it was both funny and sad. It was cool to see how they performed it.”

Any student who wrote a play through the project had an opportunity to visit Chautauqua Institution through this most recent visit and hear plays by their peers read by Chautauqua community and staff. Awards were given during the closing reception to celebrate student’s efforts and creativity and recognize the winning plays. Each student received a certificate that stated, “Chautauqua Institution exists to explore the best in human values and this is what you do every time you have the courage to create. You imagine. You explore. You bring others with you on your journey. Thank you for becoming a playwright and sharing your story – may your spirit of invention and imagination be ever active!”

The Young Playwrights Project is a partnership with Chautauqua Institution and the Chautauqua Theater Company to present an interactive, three-part playwriting project for area students. In the first stage of the project, teaching artists from Chautauqua Theater Company visit every third and fourth grade classroom at the participating schools to guide students through the process of writing a play. The second phase is the visit to Chautauqua Institution. The third phase sees the winning plays published online by Chautauqua Institution as well as performed by the Chautauqua Theater Company on June 14th.

“We began the Young Playwrights Project five years ago with Fletcher and Chautauqua Lake elementary schools. To now be serving five schools and over 500 students is a dream come true. This project brings together four school districts and over 40 community volunteers who read student plays out loud in February. I remember looking at a 9-year-old and a 90-year-old and being in awe of the impact this program has as we work together to impact young lives – and as we let those young lives impact us. From plays about loved ones passing away to intergalactic adventures, the process of improvising and writing plays is one that allows for a beautiful expression of what it is to be human. I feel this project addresses the core of Chautauqua Institution’s values and mission,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, Vice President of Performing and Visual Arts, Chautauqua Institution.

The success of this performance has led to the Young Playwrights Project winning plays being offered as part of the Institution’s Family Entertainment Series, which will be held this year on July 2 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Smith Wilkes Hall. All participating schools and their families are invited onto the grounds to attend the performance.

“We are lucky to have a wonderful partnership with Chautauqua Institution,” said JPS Superintendent Bret Apthorpe. “Many of our kids have never experienced writing a play, seeing it performed by professionals or visiting a national attraction like Chautauqua. The opportunities that Chautauqua brings, both into our schools and with field trips, can be life changing for our students. We value our relationship with Chautauqua Institution and how much they care about our community.”

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