“When I put on my earbuds, I look out the window of my car and think. I can ponder life, school, friends, anything I want…”
“When I put on my three silver bracelets, I am transported back in time…into the world of my grandmother…”
“When I put on my swimsuit and goggles and start swimming, my Mom and Dad say I look like a fish…”
Young authors’ imaginations can be endless when they’re given the opportunity to create.
And a contest involving UCF’s Theatre for Young Audiences gives those budding writers the chance to see their stories come to life.
The project, called Writes of Spring, is a collaboration of graduate students in the Theatre UCF master’s program, the Orlando Repertory Theatre and students from the community in kindergarten through 12th grade.
This year’s assignment to the writers was to compose a short story, essay or poem finishing this intro: “When I put on _______.”
Out of about 1,300 entries submitted last fall, 114 winners were chosen in four different age groups to be woven into a story by student and already-veteran-scriptwriter Amanda Hill.
Performances will be May 1-2 at the Orlando Repertory Theatre, 1001 E. Princeton St., Orlando, with student Courtney Grile as director. This year’s production titled “if not now, when?” will include graduate and undergraduate theatre students as the actors. Others that have been key to the production are faculty adviser Vandy Wood; Gary Cadwallader, education director at Orlando Repertory Theatre; and sponsor Fifth Third Bank.
“The project strives to support literacy, critical thinking, and creative expression by transforming students’ words into a fully produced show,” Hill said. “Each poem, essay, and story is a piece of a huge jigsaw puzzle, which the creative team works to piece together.”
Joan Roxbury, a third-grade teacher at Lake Eola Charter School in downtown Orlando, said topics that deal with animals, friends, fantasy and adventure appeal to her young writers.
“The students often write about their own personal experiences that are important to them,” said Roxbury, who had compositions by nine of her students chosen this year for Writes of Spring. She said she also uses the project as an assignment to encourage her struggling writers to participate because they don’t see the one-page length as an overwhelming task.
“Writes of Spring gave them a chance to write about their dreams and wishes, and they loved that,” she said.
Hill said there were so many well-composed entries that it was hard to pick winners for the script.
“There was so much good material to choose from,” she said. “We can’t choose it all or the play would never end.”
Roxbury said she is grateful for the opportunity for her students’ works to be acted out on stage by the UCF theatre team.
“The Writes of Spring contest connected the theme of writing and acting together for my students, which was really great,” she said.
“I think celebrating their writing is a key motivational factor. When Writes of Spring indicated that they were going to use the stories in our class, the students were thrilled at the prospect of seeing their pieces come to life.”
Tickets for “if not now, when” are complimentary, but reservations for the May 1-2 productions are recommended by calling 407-896-7365, ext. 1 at the Orlando Repertory Theatre, 1001 E. Princeton St., Orlando. Both nights will have a kickoff celebration at 6:30 p.m., followed by the 7 p.m. performance and a reception.