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Twin Beach Players’ 10th Annual Kid’s Playwriting Festival

See the world according to young artists

Left to right are 2015 KPF winners: Cameron Walker, Lucie Boyd, Abigail Peterson, Elizabeth Cullens and Ava Jabara. Not in photo is playwright Leah Hartley. <<photo by Karen Lambert>>

“Write plays that matter,” playwright Terrence McNally admonishes. “Raise the stakes. Shout, yell, holler, but make yourself heard. … Speak from the heart about the things that matter most.” This sage advice for aspiring dramatists comes from one of the best contemporary American playwrights.
    For a decade, Twin Beach Players has led kids in following McNally’s advice. The Kid’s Playwriting Festival is a yearly spring competition of original plays by young playwrights. For this year’s 10th annual competition, Maryland elementary, middle and high schoolers wrote 29 plays. Based on writing ability, imagination and human values, six winners were chosen — two in each age group — by a panel of five judges. Winners earned $100 and joined in the six weeks of production, helping cast and rehearse their works. Last year’s winning playwrights returned as directors this year.
    This year’s winners are elementary school students Ava Jabara and Lucie Boyd; middle school students Elizabeth Cullens and Leah Hartley; and high school students Cameron Walker and Abigail Petersen.
    Ava Jabara, 11, who starts middle school this fall, is a two-time winner. This year’s play, Blending, is about two different families that join to become one. Her hope was, she says, to bring out the changes that blending families face. Her biggest challenge was coming up with the best title.
    Lucie Boyd, 10, also an elementary schooler, wrote The Sand Island Explosion. The plot surrounds a mystery involving University of Maryland college students. Boyd particularly likes historical mysteries such as the fate of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, which served as her inspiration.
    Middle schooler Elizabeth Cullens, 13, won for Choosing You, about an orphan living in foster care who waits for her mother to return for her. The story was inspired by the play and movie Annie. Cullens has been delighted during production to see the cast for her play “exceed her expectations.”
    Leah Hartley, another middle schooler, won for the play The Art Contest, about the friendship that develops between two archrival students.
    High school student Cameron Walker, 15, scored with A Tale of Two Directors, a play about two sides of a successful director/writer. Walker’s role models include television screenwriter/playwright Rod Sterling and movie director/producer Steven Spielberg.
    Abigail Petersen, a 2013 winner, repeated success this year at age 14 with Coffeehouse Change, about the struggles and successes of a small business and its owner. Her inspiration came from a book in her AP history class. Petersen believes that “people can change the world.”
    Like the dramatists, Players’ president Sid Curl and Youth Troupe director Sherry Lehnen are looking forward to the performances and festivities. Past playwrights, directors, alumni and special guests were invited to VIP night, featuring a short slideshow of  past festivals and an original dance routine by young Players.
    Over the decade, “we’ve seen great improvement in participation,” Curl says. Twenty-nine plays was a record, as was 60 actors auditioning for parts. He attributes the growth of the company and festival in part due to having found a home at the Boys and Girls Clubs.
    With the support of family, friends and their Players mentors, these talented kids are heeding Terrence McNally’s advice: speaking from their hearts, getting their voices heard and being recognized.
    For the next two weekends, their plays come to life for you.

Playing July 31-Aug. 9, FSa 7pm; Su 3pm. Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern MD, 9021 Dayton Ave., North Beach, $5-$10; rsvp: