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 Playwright Project Helps Students Find Their Voice

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A classroom in the North County Regional Education Center in San Marcos, mid-morning on a school day. Three actors shuffle through scripts, quietly discussing roles and awaiting students’ return to class to begin performances.


North County Technology and Science Blended Academy students had the chance to see their words come to life recently thanks to a partnership with the nonprofit Playwrights Project.

Students in Tammy Reina’s language arts class wrote three-scene plays while working over several in-class sessions with Playwrights Project teaching artist Albert Park.

“Students took on challenging, real-world topics, and what they created is a testament to both their experiences and their creativity,” Reina said.

Typically, when Playwrights Project works with a class, the plays are presented once the final versions are complete. This time, Park visited for another session, bringing two actors to perform the works-in-progress for mid-session critiques.

With enthusiasm and passion, the trio performed scene after scene, taking time after each to get the students to weigh in. What kept you watching? What confused or bothered you? The playwrights were urged to listen, respond, and take notes for their final drafts. The actors sometimes did improv to suggest options for the next, unwritten scene.

Over the next two hours, the actors and students exchanged ideas, compliments, and critique on the plays, which focused on a range of tough, powerful topics like pressure to commit a crime, revenge, struggling to make ends meet, gender discrimination, and more. They all had a common thread -- family.

“Playwrights Project provides an opportunity for the voice of the student to be heard and validated, to be recognized and acknowledged,” Park said. “No matter where somebody is in their lives, they all have something to say.”

The scripts are all generated by students, Park added. “I give them guidance, and they do all the heavy lifting. It’s wherever their imagination takes them.”

For the students, what was it like to see their words come to life? Said 18-year-old Ian Swenningsen: “Breathtaking.”

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