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Windermere Observer Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019 1 week ago

Windermere Prep thespian raises funds for Harbor House through play

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IB theater student Emma Lawrence featured her play, “Young Women,” Sept. 20 at Orlando Shakes.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

Windermere Prep junior Emma Lawrence is no stranger to the stage, but she recently experienced a little role reversal with a play she wrote herself.

The 16-year-old International Baccalaureate theater student presented her play, “Young Women,” Sept. 20 at the Mandell Studio Theatre at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center — also known as Orlando Shakes. “Young Women” is the first play Lawrence wrote and directed, and it covers topics and issues teenage girls face in the 21st century.

“I’ve been writing it for quite some time, and it depicts the struggles that young girls in the 21st century have to face, such as bullying, social media and heavier topics such as sexual assault,” Lawrence said. “I just really wanted to give a platform for awareness for such (topics) as this, because I feel like it’s not necessarily spoken about.

“It’s a series of monologues (featuring) five girls,” she said. “Each (character) has a separate story with scenes in between. … My (character’s) name was Claire … and my monologue was depicting an abusive relationship. And then another character, Kennedy, was going through bullying at our school. It goes through each separate story in a five- to seven-minute monologue.” 

Lawrence’s play not only conveys some of the issues teen girls face today but also provides support for women who have survived domestic abuse. All proceeds raised from the play benefited the Harbor House of Central Florida, an organization that works to prevent and eliminate domestic abuse in Central Florida by providing critical services to survivors, implementing and advancing best practices and educating and engaging the community. Lawrence was able to raise $1,200 to benefit the Harbor House.

“The Harbor House of Central Florida is a charity I care very deeply for, and I really wanted to raise awareness for that (charity),” Lawrence said. 

Theater has been part of Lawrence’s life since she was in kindergarten. She typically finds herself playing roles on stage, but her own play brought forth some new experiences. In addition to writing “Young Women,” Lawrence also directed it and played a role in the show. 

“It’s been really interesting to see the different viewpoints (of theater), because I’ve always just been an actor,” Lawrence said. “I haven’t really been able to see the director’s perspective, so it was really interesting to see how to handle things (and) how to handle rehearsals. … That was kind of hard to deal with, because I’ve always been on the other side, and it’s been cool to look at that (director side). It’s also been interesting to take notes from different actors, since I was directing it.”

One of the challenges Lawrence faced was balancing the rigorous classwork that comes with the territory of being an IB diploma student with the loads of work that it takes to produce a show. In addition, she also works with the Acting Up Theater Academy, which has a production of “Frozen Jr.” coming in November and December. For that production, Lawrence will be starring as Elsa.

“As an IB diploma candidate, it’s a lot of work,” she said. “There’s homework every single night. There’s tests almost every single day, so it’s been difficult to write and plan a rehearsal. I allotted a day — we had rehearsals almost every single Sunday since school began.” 

Although the first showing of “Young Women” is complete, Lawrence is working toward additional shows for her play. She plans on entering it to be showcased in the 2020 Orlando Fringe Festival, and she’s been asked by her school to present it to her fellow Lakers. 

“‘Young Women’ was an exceptional performance about the issues women face every day,” theater teacher Jason Wheelhouse said. “I was blown away by the presence of the performers on stage, the delivery of the script and how well it was written. It clearly showed the qualities of a great writer and the exceptional performance skills of outstanding performers. Emma did exceptionally well in writing, casting, directing and performing in such a well-thought-out and very significant and meaningful piece of theater.”

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and the West Orange Observer. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a double major in Journalism and Political Science. Contact Eric at...

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