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 Actors Bring Student Plays to Life at SDCOE

San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) employees were treated recently to performances of short plays written by some of the students they serve in the Juvenile Court and Community Schools.

The performances Nov. 17 at SDCOE’s main campus featured a group of professional actors who are part of Playwrights Project, a nonprofit group that works to advance literacy, creativity, and communication by empowering individuals to voice their stories through playwriting programs and theatre productions.

“We are excited to share some of the terrific creative writing that came out of this project,” said Tammy Reina, a teacher at North County Technology and Science Academy.

Hundreds of Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) students wrote their own one-act plays as part of the project. Organizers with Playwrights Project have worked with JCCS students for years, but they were able to double the number of students involved this school year with grant money from the California Arts Council, Qualcomm, Weingart Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Artists with Playwrights Project will work with students in 24 JCCS classes during the 2014-15 school year. Students were encouraged to write plays about a character who is struggling to overcome obstacles, exploring themes of power, love, friendship, freedom, and justice.

Daniel, a student at La Mesa Community School, said he doesn’t normally like writing, but being able to write plays in a more natural voice has helped him express his emotions and creativity.

“I thought it was going to be like an essay, but it’s not,” he said. “You can connect with people and with their stories.”

Brandon Kelley, one of the actors who performed the plays Nov. 17, said he enjoyed the experience and learned from it.

“It’s kind of cool to get a little bit of taste from their lives,” he said. “I look at these kids differently now.”