Have you spent any time with a person between the ages of 5-18 lately? If you have, and if you’ve been really listening, you will know that they have a lot to say. They are observant, unfiltered, creative, and far too often dismissed by adults because of their age. Orlando REP hopes that no student ever feels that way once they walk through our doors. We aim to highlight the voice of young protagonists on our stages and hold one particular performance each year that directly brings the voices of the young people in Central Florida to the forefront, Writes of Spring!

Writes of Spring is a three-part creative writing program designed to offer students in K-12 grade recognition for their writing and an opportunity to see their words on stage! Students submit creative writing pieces, these pieces are evaluated and scored, and then the winning entries are adapted into a brand-new theatrical work produced by Orlando Repertory Theatre! Writes of Spring aims to celebrate and honor the voices of our young writers through the medium of theatre. It is not only the ideas from these entries that inspire the play, but the actual text written by students that finds its way into the dialogue of the script.

 

This project is led by Theatre for Young Audiences MFA students from the University of Central Florida. These theater artists manage the contest and the production with support and mentorship from staff of Orlando REP. Each new set of graduates has to examine their point of view on student voice and how it defines this year’s process.

Our current graduates are examining voice in each part of the process. Joni Newman, Education Coordinator for Writes of Spring, says “Before we can honor student voice, we need to foster it. Our workshops, then, are an important part of what we do each year. We visit classrooms and work with students on developing more dynamic language to more fully explain how they feel and think. We have them show us with their bodies the difference in what different synonyms mean. Then, we have them begin writing. If, for example, they describe getting a great gift, we challenge them to consider if they were happy or ecstatic by remembering how the two words felt in their bodies. Part of honoring student voice is empowering them to more fully express themselves in the first place.”

Once the pieces have been chosen and our playwright, Sage Tokach, begins the adaptation process, she needs to consider what is important to herself and the team regarding how the students receive the work in the end. “To me, honoring student voices is more than using students’ literal words. Every person has their own background and set of beliefs, so it is my job to embrace their diverse perspectives and represent those ideas onstage. During the Writes of Spring performance, I want each student to recognize their contribution onstage without having to reference the script index. I hope to honor their voices in a way that makes them feel heard.”

Making the students feel honored doesn’t just stop at the writing of the play. Winners and the general public are invited to the performance which also consists of a pre-show lobby experience that celebrates students through activities, refreshments, and spotlight on the creative process! If students are not excited about writing before coming to Writes of Spring, we hope they leave here with a new found energy for creative writing and self-expression. “Writes of Spring is so unique because it revolves around the students and what they write, it depends on them.  Without the submissions from the students there would be no Writes of Spring,” comments project coordinator Morgan Cobb. “Our team recognizes that and is dedicated to honoring the students’ both publicly and with the creation of this year’s script. We want not just the winners, but every student to be able to come to the theatre and see the show and feel proud that they were a part of this amazing opportunity.”

This year’s prompt for entry was answering the question “How can your life change in just 5 minutes?”

Congratulations to our Writes of Spring 2020 Winners!

Emily Van Dyke, 1st Grade-Homeschooled

Elyse Outerbridge, 2nd Grade-Master’s Academy

Owen Cole, 3rd Grade-Lake Eola Charter School

Oliver Van Hoorhis, 3rd Grade-Lake Eola Charter School

Grace Fields, 3rd Grade-Baldwin Park Elementary

Adrian Cano, 3rd Grade-Baldwin Park Elementary

Zaida Libby, 3rd Grade-Manatee Cove Elementary

Grayce Vernon, 3rd Grade-Manatee Cove Elementary

Emma Outerbridge, 4th Grade-Master’s Academy

Rebecca Ziesig, 5th Grade-Homeschooled

Jordin Ndiaye, 6th Grade-Master’s Academy

Benjamin Soderholm, 6th Grade-Master’s Academy

Amaia Nunez, 6th Grade-Good Shepherd Catholic School

Kaili Garza, 6th Grade-Good Shepherd Catholic School

Walker Clark, 7th Grade-Lake Preparatory School

Jaden Campbell, 7th Grade-Good Shepherd Catholic School

Jaretzy Torres, 7th Grade-Good Shepherd Catholic School

Leah Multari, 7th Grade-Good Shepherd Catholic School

Mabry Amsler, 7th Grade-Master’s Academy

Reagan Isler, 7th Grade-Sanford Middle School

Jake Robinson, 8th Grade-Lake Preparatory School

Sheridan Macon, 9th Grade-Lake Nona High School

Jenna Calderale, 10th Grade-Freedom High School

Sarai Morss, 11th Grade-West Orange High School

Deirdre Rhodes, 12th Grade-Liberty Christian School

The Writes of Spring contest is open to students from any county and held in the fall of each school year. Contact [email protected] for more information.

The Writes of Spring 2020 performance is February 7, 2020 at 7:00pm.