It’s hard to tell someone learning can be fun without sounding like an after-school special.
Instead, the Mother Road Theatre Company asked young people from all over the city to write a play. Many did just that, and they probably picked up a few things, whether they realized it or not.
“It’s project-based learning,” explains Mother Road’s Director of Education David Sinkus. “When you create a play, you learn about sentence structure, grammar and how to tell a good story, without even knowing it.”
Therein lies the impetus for the first-ever New Mexico Young Playwrights Festival. Sinkus, who coordinated the event, helped put together several youth play-writing festivals in other parts of the country. “I figured, why not have one in New Mexico?” he says.
Close to 40 plays, submitted by students in elementary, middle and high school, were culled down to three finalists by Mother Road. The playwrights who made the cut will have their work performed by Mother Road Company actors and others from the theater community on Saturday, Aug. 9. Beginning Wednesday, Aug. 6, the playwrights will also work with the cast and crew producing their play to iron out the final details of the performance. “They’ll be involved in the realization of their play,” Sinkus says. “They’ll get to see it come to life.”
The plays will be judged by a panel including KOAT Channel 7 anchor Royale Da, Duke City Shootout Director Jim “Grubb” Graebner and 2006 Kennedy Center Latino Playwriting Award winner Don Garcia. For Garcia, the festival offers the opportunity to interact with the community. “Anytime you get a chance to work with young kids on anything creative, you gotta do it,” Garcia says. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
As far as his theatrical preferences, Garcia says his vote will go to the play with the most guts. “I’m looking for the one that has that enthusiasm,” Garcia says. “I’m looking for the play that has the balls.” The playwright who impresses the judges most will take home a $100 first-place prize.
Garcia will lead one of three workshops during the festival. The festival will also includes table readings of many of the submitted plays, the performances of the three finalists and the announcement of the winner. Everyone, regardless of age, is welcome to participate in the workshops. The overarching goal of the event is to increase literacy in New Mexico’s youth and plant the seeds that will help New Mexico students become lifelong writers. “We can see and hear the voice of the youth of Albuquerque at this festival,” Sinkus says. “They have something to say, and we should listen.”