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Student playwrights, Fantasy Theatre Factory wants to hear from you

Posted By Josie Gulliksen
April 27, 2020 at 9:48 PM

Fantasy Theatre Factory wanted to keep serving their young audiences even after hearing the news about Covid-19 closures. Their leaders realized many of their programs would be cancelled that month – and probably through all of April, due to social distancing,

From that was born “Together Apart – Youth Theatre in the Time of Coronavirus,” a creative writing project open to students from third through 12th grade in South Florida. Especially because the current times have stifled the group from doing their work.

“Our norm is to go out in the community to libraries, community centers and many other venues,” said Associate Artistic Director Romell Arellan-Marinas. “That’s in addition to the many programs we put on at our building, The Sandrell Rivers Theater.”

When they began seeing organizations doing workshops, monologues and alternative projects for different populations they thought “how can we serve the children we perform for?” said Arellan-Marinas.

The program works like this: students from Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties, including those that are homeschooled, are encouraged to submit original monologues or short plays centered around Covid-19. The works are due May 1 and will be staged via Fantasy Theatre Factory’s Facebook page on May 8.

“We started the process via an e-mail to our direct contacts of which are mainly teachers,” he said. “We’ve gotten great feedback from schools with teachers telling us their students are busy writing.”

Scene from “Cinderella, A Fractured Fairy Tale.” Photo courtesy of Fantasy Theatre Factory.

The idea behind “Together Apart” is to see how the pandemic is affecting the students and changing their generation because they’re talking about life and death. Submissions are coming in and here’s what they’re seeing.

“We’re excited to see how they can cope with Covid-19. Some are using comedy, others fantasy and others straight drama,” said Arellan-Marinas. “They’re talking about how they deal with their parents and family members, how they miss going to their grandparent’s house and how scared they feel about the possibility of dying.”

On the other end, there are also messages of hope in the works being submitted. Children talking about the solution to all of this, what is the cure. Some have gone as far as saying aliens will come.

“It’s really interesting and we’re excited, we didn’t expect this kind of response. Parents and teachers also need a way of knowing how the kids are feeling,” he said.

Other topics they are covering are things like adjusting to online school and missing seeing their friends.

“This is changing people, we have to look beyond all the things we’re concerned about the immediate things, to the mental health,” he said.

They continue to receive submissions and are carefully reviewing them before the May 1 deadline. They have an hour allocated for the May 8th presentation.

The program has even prompted special requests from the community with interested people asking if Fantasy Theatre Factory will expand to different populations and different mediums.

“They want to know if we’ll do more than just monologues and expand it to poetry and an open mic type of event,” he said. “We’re also hearing requests for the special needs population. We’re open to these ideas and plan to do one thing at a time.”

For right now, following the May 8 performance they’re planning a Mother’s Day concert on May 10 and then a comedy show. Further down the road even an Eco Challenge.

One silver lining in all of this virtual programming is that it’s brought the artistic community together to share information and expand their audiences. It also allows for one on one contact with people, in the case of Together Apart those people are individual children and young adults.

“I think it’s helping us create new relationships that will be very meaningful in the future. It could also be a time when the children will remember this is when they started becoming a playwright,” he said. “We’re creating new young artists that can express themselves through the written word.”

Fantasy Theatre Factor has been a fixture in Miami’s theatre community since 1982. They are “dedicated to creating original quality educational programs for children and families and to making their programs accessible to more people of all cultures and backgrounds.”  Learn more about “Together Apart” scheduled for May 8 at 8 p.m. on their Facebook page and other upcoming events on their website.

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