On Saturday, August 15th, LAMusArt’s third annual Playmaking performance streamed live on LAMusArt’s Youtube channel to over two hundred viewers, including the student playwrights premiering their original plays. The performance featured nine student-written works, ranging from family dramas to broad comedies to fantastical adventures. Through the magic of theater, LAMusArt’s latest group of playwrights provided Los Angeles and beyond with a dazzling night of entertainment.
Playmaking, which began in 2017, is an annual dramatic writing program that teaches students ages 8-11 the fundamentals of playwriting over the course of eight weeks, culminating in a professional production of the student-written work by adult actors, directors, and designers. In between the academic portion and the performance, students are tasked with writing their final plays under the guidance of an adult mentor. The 2020 Playmaking session began in February, and swiftly shifted to online classes after the impact of COVID-19 forced LAMusArt to close its physical space.
“The students were incredibly flexible and resilient when we had to move to virtual learning. They managed to finish the final classes online, and write their plays with their mentors online as well. When they signed up for this program in January, they had no idea that they’d be asked to make such accommodations and they truly stepped up to the plate in ways I never thought possible!” said Tahnee Freda, the Lead Teaching Artist for the program.
Typically, the annual event takes place in a theater in Los Angeles, but new constraints forced the program coordinators to think outside the box.
“We still really wanted the students to feel like their work was being recognized. A very important part of the experience of Playmaking is that feeling of success when you see the final product come together, so we brainstormed ways to make it happen while keeping everyone involved safe,” said Executive Director, Manuel Prieto. This meant that the show would go on, but the way audiences would enjoy it would have to evolve. LAMusArt opted to record socially distanced versions of each play, and asked the students to record introductions to their plays from the comfort of their homes. Each show began with a snippet of each student citing their name, age and the title of their play. Another new aspect of offering the performance online; live commentary.
“It was so cool to see what people thought of the plays as they were happening! The comments in the chat were so supportive and encouraging. An unexpected silver lining to this unconventional way of watching theater,” Kathleen Jequinto, LAMusArt’s Development Associate and a featured performer in the production.
The Saturday evening performance starred some of Los Angeles’ brightest young talents, including Danny Jolles, Diana Romo, Ebony Howard, Eddie Ruiz, Elizabeth Morrison, Jesse Holcomb, John Garet Stoker, Kathleen Jequinto, Marina Schon and Michael O’Konis. Behind the scenes, sound designer Jose Fletes, costume designer Ariel Werner, prop master Angelene Storey, lighting designer Will Chandler and composer Richard An, contributed their masterful skills to help bring the shows to life as well.
The 2020 Playmaking performance is currently available to stream on LAMusArt’s YouTube Channel and at www.LAMusArt.org/Watch. Students interested in the drama program can learn more about various classes at LAMusArt.org/Drama.
Filming provided by Envizion Group.