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Wednesday, Jun 28, 2017

Competition showcases pre-teen playwrights

On Saturday and Sunday, Kidspeak is what happens when a cast of 10 actors delve into the vivid imaginations of eight young playwrights.

Throughout December and January, Carrollwood Players Theatre invited budding young playwrights throughout Tampa Bay to submit new, original short plays for its first youth playwriting challenge. In February, Director Leo Salerno cast new and returning actors Jay Wazelle, Ken Grace, MaryBeth Wells, Bridgett Hager, Jim Moss, John Durbin, Rehema Bilali, Alexa Sheppard, Nick Knetze and Carlee Soto into many different character roles.

The family friendly presentation of Kidspeak brings the imagination of children to life as eight short plays receive their world premiere as a staged reading with this cast of adult actors in the Carrollwood Players Black Box theater. Kidspeak offers the performers no set, props or costume to rely upon. Through only the use of their voice and facial expressions will the students’ characters come to life.

Forty-four submissions were whittled down to eight anonymous plays, later identified as from playwrights ages 9 through 12. Young playwrights from Hillel Academy of Tampa, Branchburg Middle School and Academy Prep Center of Tampa will soon see their words brought to life.

Academy Prep teacher Imani Cruz used the contest as a classroom assignment.

“The kids could learn about plays, make it fun, and meet the deadline. I told the kids to write about whatever they wanted and they definitely did,” she explained. “I figured we’d get one or two selected (in the contest), but I didn’t expect six. It was really great to hear that.”

From comedies, dramas and mysteries, featured short plays are “The Three Wandering Friends” by Sitar Ben-Herut, age 9; “Bullied” by Anysea Strickland, 10; “The Haunted House” by Ailen Correa, 10; “The Golden Cone” by Amari Cole, 11; “Leave Me Alone” by Aiyana Farquharson, 11; “Battletron NX3” by Rowan Moss, 11; “Bank Robbery” by Daisy Suarez-Garcia, 12; and “Lost and Found” by Qemamu Reddick, 12.

Anysea Strickland described how she came up with her one-act concept.

“I got my idea because a lot of people get bullied,” she said. “Instead of harming themselves, people should end up being friends.”

Patron votes will make a difference in this one-of-a-kind competition. At the close of Sunday’s show, one young playwright will be announced as the winner, based upon audience and three judges’ votes and will receive a trophy. All other playwrights will receive certificates of merit for participating in the inaugural Kidspeak.

Kidspeak actor John Durbin explained.

“Are they (the playwrights) Shakespeare, Wilde, Miller, Shaw, O’Neill, Simon? No they’re not, but who is to say they won’t be in time? Everyone had to start somewhere,” he said. “They’re young, and have a passion for something, and someday, you may see one of these young playwrights on Broadway.”

The consensus of the young playwrights is that they are looking forward to seeing their words on stage, how the audience reacts and what emotion they feel.

“I give the actors any help they need to build their character, but the character itself is up to them,” said Salerno, the director. “We have nine very talented actors and I am so pleased with this.”

Kidspeak is Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at Carrollwood Players, a 501(c)3 nonprofit located at 4333 Gunn Highway. Black Box tickets are $10 and available online and at the theater. Additional information and tickets are available at www.carrollwoodplayers.org/kidspeak.

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