by Anna Winer
Over a whirlwind weekend, January 25 and 26, six Grady High School students participated in a playwriting workshop and produced six one-act, two-character plays, from initial conception through performance. Telescoping a process that usually takes months into just over 24 hours was a thrilling ride for the student participants.
“To see my play come to life on stage by professional actors was incredible!” said Kelsey Hubbard, a repeat participant.
“This is the one day in the school year I live for!” enthused Avanti Lemons, a two-time attendee, who is already looking forward to next year’s workshop.
Led by Megan Cramer, Grady alumna and Associate Artistic Director of the 52nd Street Project in New York City, the students began on Friday afternoon. Using music to stimulate their creativity, Ms. Cramer had each participant imagine a character, complete with backstory, desires, and motivations. Next came a setting and second character to provide an opportunity for dramatic interaction.
While keeping in mind the necessary tenets of any play (conflict, want, and change), the students were free to explore. Saturday morning was spent writing and revising under Ms. Cramer’s guidance. Volunteers quickly typed up the plays, and at 3 p.m., a group of professional actors arrived to direct and rehearse them. A little over two hours later, the freshly written scripts were performed before an audience in Grady’s black box theatre, and the plays sprang vividly to life.
For the students, the workshop was an intense but gratifying experience, and each expressed a distinctive voice. The plays ranged from the comic (Nick Pittman’s about cantankerous nonagenarians at a high school reunion or Chad Gordon’s about the transformative effect of a boy’s determination to get a Homecoming Dance date) to the tragic (Kelsey Hubbard’s about a love declared too late). Zoie Cushing wrote a fantasy adventure, while Suhmer Robinson imagined a volatile encounter between a meerkat and a lion. Avanti Lemons created a claustrophobic and improbably comic play about a domineering piano teacher/kidnapper.
The Playmakers’Playwriting Workshop was sponsored by the Grady Writing Center (www.gradywc.org), which is operated through the support of the non-profit Grady High School Foundation, The Ray and Elizabeth Lee Foundation, the Harper Foundation, and the Boys’ High School Alumni Association.
It is coordinated by Ormewood Park's Riki Bolster, a former Grady High School journalism teacher, and a cadre of volunteers. The Writing Center is an after-school drop-in center for writing, and also sponsors writing competitions, other workshops and a Summer Writing Camp.
Ms. Winer is a Writing Center volunteer.