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Curtain Rises: Young Playwrights have the stage in 19th year for Touchstone Theatre

Explore the rich imagination of children when Touchstone Theatre presents the 19th year of its acclaimed “Young Playwrights’ Festival,” 3 p.m. May 19, theater, Northeast Middle School, 1170 Fernwood St., Bethlehem.

The festival is a showcase of short plays written by elementary and middle school students that is presented in partnership with the Bethlehem Area School District. This is the first time the festival will be held in a district school.

The festival is the culmination of Touchstone’s “Young Playwrights’ Lab,” an eight-week arts and literacy residency using theater to provide a platform for creative self-expression and encourage students to write.

Touchstone facilitators use improvisation, writing exercises and collaborative critique. Each student writes an original one-act play which is considered for performance at the festival.

The plays often include light-hearted elements such as talking animals, space aliens and imaginary worlds. The plays explore universal themes of love, resilience, importance of family and bravery in the face of adversity.

More than 134 plays were submitted from this year’s program with four scripts chosen as finalists for fully-staged productions; two partially-produced semi-finalists, and six runners-up, each with a brief scene or dialogue performed onstage.

Plays and scenes will be directed by a member of Touchstone’s ensemble and performed by Touchstone actors, community performers and students from area schools.

“The combination of the kids’ imaginations and Touchstone’s own creates a one-of-a-kind evening of theater,” says Mary Wright, Touchstone Theatre Education Director.

“We invite everyone to celebrate with us the whimsy, wit and wisdom of our youth. The ‘Young Playwrights’ Festival’ gives the Lehigh Valley the chance to look deep into the hearts and minds of our youngest artists,” Wright says.

Finalists are:

- “The Desperate Kitty” by Adalee Amann of Freemansburg Elementary. Director Samantha Beedle. A child discovers the consequences of rude behavior, and finds a way to go back and fix it

- “The Pirate Hunt” by Valentina Navarro of James Buchanan Elementary. Director Christopher Shorr. Captain Blackbeard and his motley crew attempt to capture the Octopus Leader for gold and silver

- “The Creature Troubles” by Brielle Dennis of Governor Wolf Elementary. Director Matt Prideaux. A worm and a caterpillar try to get to California by boarding an airplane.

- “Tad Tales” by Allison Coyle of Lincoln Elementary. Director Mary Wright. Viewers learn not to be afraid of those that are different than us even when they may seem a bit scary.

Semi-finalists are “Best Birthday Ever!” by Martina Moreno of Farmersville Elementary, and “The Magical Pencil” by Mac Parker of Lincoln Elementary.

Runners-up are “The Nurse” by Jadiel Moronata-Pena of Casa Guadalupe, “The Zig-Zag Star Adventure” by Jaslene Martinez of Donegan Elementary, “Cooked!” by Anna Stewart of Spring Garden Elementary, “The Eclipse” by Elianni Benetiz and “Luna Rivas” of Nitschmann Middle School, “Teresa and Poppy” by Emi Monfre of Fountain Hill Elementary, and “The Crazy Craziest West” by Vincent David Hernandez of Marvine Elementary.

Bethlehem Mayor J. William Reynolds and folk and children’s musician Dave Fry perform in two of the finalists’ plays.

“19th Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival,” 3 p.m. May 19, Touchstone Theatre, Northeast Middle School Theatre, 1170 Fernwood St., Bethlehem. 610-867-1689, https://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.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO “Aquil & Paisley Lost Their Pet Jellybean” by Zinay Marie Crespo, 2023 “Young Playwrights' Festival.”