The Youth Screenwriters Circle was hosted last night at FST’s Keating Theatre. The event featured original screenplays authored by students from Phoenix Academy and Sarasota County Technical Institute, SCTI, that were brought to life by readings from the Sarasota High Drama Department. Orated by the festival’s education director, Allison Koehler, the presentation was one of the 12 free scholastic programs comprising the annual youthFEST series.
The readings were intruiging in that they meld a variety of youthful dynamics on acting and pencraft that, though not necessarily polished at their age, were enlightening towards their creative poignancy, approach and mental outlook. The scripts universally spoke to conflicts assailing youth and many tackled matters considered mature for the age group. There was a story of a girl who was redemptively mentored in prison after she’s arrested for cocaine possession; a script about a girl’s desperate struggle to convince people she was raped by a popular older guy; in one, two teens are thrust in to gang life after robbing a convenience store; in part one of another, a child unknowingly spawned of Athena is called to save her mother’s life.
“This year’s event was a great success,” says Koehler. “I couldn’t be prouder of what these students accomplished in the short amount of time we had to work together. The engaging performances from the SHS Drama Department really highlighted the writers’ talent, and Sarasota should be proud as a community to have a platform like this one that fosters creativity and collaboration in it’s high schoolers.”
Koehler expressed that she feels the Youth Screenwriters Circle is one of SFF’s most meaningful programs. Pre-festival, they work with students at Phoenix Academy whom in many cases are struggling academically, particularly with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. “This program offers them an alternative to the traditional in-class writing environment where they are able to relax and focus on telling a story that is meaningful to them, many of which come from personal experiences.” The Youth Screenwriting Workshop takes place at SCTI, a school with an exemplary DVP (Digital Video Production) program, and students are challenged to take a critical, editorial look at rough drafts of scripts already written for their program.
The following are quotes taken from the five Phoenix Academy students when asked about how the experience has been for them and what it’s like to see their work performed on stage:
Kala Wilson said, “I’m nervous. It’s my first year, and I’m the only 8th grader here.” She was inspired to write the piece while lying in bed and applied through her creative writing class. When asked about the effect it would have to see her work performed, she said, “I think it’s going to be like, ‘Did I really write that? Is this real?’
Nye-Asia said, “It’s been phenomenal for me. I did it last year, and I did “Why Did Birds Fly.” Over the summer I wrote another story called “Hope,” but I wanted to do science fiction. It’s called “The Fallen,” and I liked it.
I don’t know how to explain it. You can see how my writing has changed and developed over time. I am an over-elaborator, and I like how my writing has become more concise and to the point. With “The Fallen,” it’s about the loss of innocence, and the name comes from my belief that you should get back up. It’s meant to inspire.”
Brenda Garcia said, “My experience has been great. Not only did we get help from Allison, but we were able to create our own ideas and develop them. My family was proud of me last year. I want to be an actress, and this is why I got in to this.”
Rebecca McGurer said, “Between the two years I’ve been doing this, It’s fun, and I really like it. Last year, I wrote about obsessive boyfriends. This year I did it on bullying. It’s amazing. Last year, I actually cried seeing it performed. That’s what I wrote and who I was.”
Nicholas Murphy said, “This is my first year. I got a lot of help from Allison creating the story. The reason I did it is because I like writing music lyrics, rap and stuff, and instead of doing that, I thought I could put the words I use in music into a story. I don’t know what it’s like seeing it performed. This is my first year.”