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Education

Teen playwrights premiere original works, taking them from the page to the stage

Some teenaged playwrights will premiere their newest works this Saturday as part of the San Diego Playwrights Project Young Writers Festival.

The high school students' original plays were chosen in the annual contest from more than 200 entries submitted by young playwrights from around San Diego County.

Now the plays are being performed by professional actors.

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Camille LaPlante, 17, is a Scripps Ranch High School senior who wrote the play titled "FORGOTTEN." It's about a girl and her grandfather, who is quickly deteriorating from dementia.

“It’s so surreal. It’s like I wrote that and there they are on stage saying that. It's just wild," LaPlante said.

While the festival showcases a series of short plays and a musical written by students still in high school, its production team is made up of professionals with the Playwrights Project, a San Diego-based arts education nonprofit.

“I think we’ve allowed the written word and the spoken word to lose value over the years. So, I hope that our playwrights realize their words mean so much more even if it just hits that one person in the audience," said Kandace Crystal, director of each of the short plays and a musical.

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“I think we’ve allowed the written word and the spoken word to lose value over the years. So, I hope that our playwrights realize their words mean so much more even if it just hits that one person in the audience."
Kandace Crystal, Playwrights Project director

This week, the actors and their playwrights got some enthusiastic audiences during a few preview student matinees. The public performance and community celebration is scheduled for Saturday night at the Kroc Center in Rolando Park.

Ayushi Sheth,15, a student at Westview High School, and Isabella Vallejo, 14, who attends Mt. Carmel High School, are part of the playwright team that created "Messy Revenge," a play featuring a vindictive crow and his pigeon-brained sidekick.

They are most impressed by the actors bringing life to their characters.

“They do such a good job of bringing the characters to life. (They're) doing it almost exactly how we practiced it and envisioned it," Vallejo said.

Mt. Carmel high school students Mia Roberts-Blanco,14, and her co-writer Cyrus King, 14, co-wrote a play titled "The Spirit Treasure."

King admitted the writing process was challenging.

“We were initially writing another play. But, it got too complicated so we had to scrap that idea. In the last minute, we wrote one about pirates," he said.

Director Crystal reflected on the significance of student work being seen by as many audiences as possible.

“Even if it’s just here in San Diego. In 10 to 20 years from now, I can’t wait for one of them to accept their Tony (Award)," she said. "And (they can) say ‘I did that because I started with the Playwrights Project.'”

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