Seattle theater honor young playwrights

January 1, 2013

By Lillian O'Rorke

Alex Kennedy, a seventh-grader at Eastside Catholic Middle School, receives an honor from ACT Theatre’s Young Playwrights Program on Dec. 10 for his original play, ‘Sweeping Beauty.’ Contributed

William Shakespeare was about 25 when he wrote his first play; Tennessee Williams was a teenager when he penned his first script, but he had to wait several more years to have one produced. For one Issaquah 12-year-old, the chance to see his words come to life onstage will come much sooner.

Alex Kennedy is in seventh grade at Eastside Catholic Middle School and will have his play, “Sweeping Beauty,” produced in Seattle this spring.

As part of their humanities class, all seventh-graders at the school this year took part in the Young Playwrights Program, an educational offshoot of Seattle’s ACT Theatre. For 10 weeks, playwright teachers worked with students to help them create their own plays.

“I have watched them grow as writers and thinkers,” teacher Lisa Abraham said in a statement released by Eastside Catholic on Dec. 14. “The creativity they possess was fostered and encouraged. Their one-act plays were witty, insightful and superbly written.”

About 400 students from the Puget Sound region took part in the program, which culminated Dec. 10, when ACT Theatre hosted an awards celebration. Eleven of Eastside Catholic’s students were recognized for their work, including Kennedy.

“It was exciting because there were a lot of plays chosen,” Kennedy said. “Everybody else’s plays were really good.”

“Sweeping Beauty,” to be produced by Macha Monkey Productions, is a parody of the similarly named fairy tale. Kennedy said he was inspired by the many comedies and spoofs of fables he and his classmates studied as part of the playwrights program. The rest of the script is a mixture of mostly imagination and a little bit of history class.

The setting for the play is 1600s Salem, Mass., where a maid turns to witchcraft and soon finds herself on trial. But she’s not the only one under the prosecutor’s microscope — her black cat, played by an actor in a feline costume, also stands accused.

“It’s a comedy,” said Kennedy, who does not have a cat of his own but has always wanted one.

After settling on the characters and a plot outline, it took the 12-year-old three days to write the first draft and another several to edit and finalize changes. He admitted that writing is not usually his favorite subject in school, or even his fifth favorite, but that the project wasn’t that bad.

The Young Playwrights Program made it fun, Kennedy said, explaining that the lessons included many games and other exercises to get students’ creative juices flowing.

The exact date for the premier of “Sweeping Beauty” has not yet been set.

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