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Curtain Rises: Touchstone Theatre presents 18th annual ‘Young Playwrights’

Touchstone Theatre of Bethlehem presented the 18th year of its acclaimed Young Playwrights’ Festival, 7:30 p.m. May 19, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, Bethlehem.

The festival, which showcases new plays written by area elementary and middle school students, is the culmination of Young Playwrights’ Lab, an eight-week arts and literacy residency developed by Touchstone and the Bethlehem Area School District using theater to encourage writing and provide a platform for creative self-expression for students.

Through improvisation, writing exercises and collaborative critique, each student writes an original one-act play to be considered for performance in the festival.

More than 130 plays were submitted from this year’s program with five scripts chosen for full production in the festival.

Given full productions were “The Evil Bear’s Revenge” by Jaden Bullock of Farmersville Elementary, “Aquil and Paisley Lost Their Pet Jellybean” by Zinay Crespo of Freemansburg Elementary, “The Princess with a Broadsword” by Harper Egging of Governor Wolf Elementary, “Spotlight” by Sadie Villafane of Lincoln Elementary, and “Black Out” by Liam Zavatone of Spring Garden Elementary.

The plays were directed by Touchstone ensemble members, guest directors from Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival and Zoellner Arts Center, and performed by Touchstone actors, community performers and area school students.

Select scenes from five runner-up plays were performed by Touchstone ensemble members and Young Playwrights’ Lab teaching artists.

Scenes performed were from “The Murder Onstage: The Story of How a Middle School’s Theatre Ghost Came To Be” by Chloe Ferullo of Nitschmann Middle School, “The Rude Welcoming” by Randy Isaac Flowers of Marvine Elementary, “The Mystery of the Lost King” by Melis Orul of James Buchanan Elementary School; “The Talking Dishes” by Mae Sobrinski of Thomas Jefferson Elementary, and “Jack and Jill the Scaredy Cats” by Bella Velez of Donegan Elementary.

There was an honorable mention and Special Dramatist Award given to Broughal Middle School student Zoey Sobrinski and their 40-page-long play, “The Pearl of Power.” A scene from this play was performed.

“The Young Playwrights’ Festival gives the Lehigh Valley a rare opportunity to look deep into the hearts and minds of our youngest artists,” says Mary Wright, Touchstone Theatre Education Director, adding, “The combination of the kids’ imaginations and Touchstone’s own creates a one-of-a-kind evening of theater.”

Wright says the plays often include light-hearted elements like talking animals, princesses and imaginary worlds, but also explore universal themes of love, resilience, importance of family and bravery in the face of adversity and “celebrate the whimsy, wit and wisdom of our youth.”

“The 18th Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival,” 7:30 p.m. May 19, Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, 420 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem. The festival was live-streamed. Information: 610-867-1689, http://www.touchstone.org/

“Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

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