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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 1 year ago

WOHS junior wins Orlando Rep writing contest

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Sarai Morss’ “Inevitable Events” will be turned into a short play to be performed in February.
by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

An extra-credit creative-writing assignment for one West Orange High School student has turned into something bigger than she imagined.

Junior Sarai Morss and her classmates in Tabitha Eastham’s language arts class were tasked with writing and submitting a one-page piece in a contest sponsored by the Orlando Repertory Theatre. The prompt was “How can your life change in just five minutes?”

The contest was open to Central Florida students in grades kindergarten through 12th, who were invited to submit fiction or nonfiction pieces and could include interviews, short stories, short plays or scenes, biographical or autobiographical works, poems, how-to guides, essays, obituaries or personal letters.

After the entries were evaluated and scored, 25 winning pieces of writing were selected, including Sarai’s. These will be adapted into a new theatrical work created by professional theater makers and produced by the Orlando Rep in February.

Sarai said she learned she won earlier this month when Eastham sent an email to the entire school.

She said of her entry, “Inevitable Events”: “Things are meant to happen, and they can happen leisurely or with the snap of a finger. It wasn’t, like, anything that happened to me; it was just things that could happen to you to change your life in five minutes.”

Sarai said she likes writing and reading for fun but hadn’t really considered writing as a career before this.

“If I’m a little talented, I just might open up my career field a little bit,” she said.

The Writes of Spring program, in its 17th year with the Orlando Rep, aims to highlight the voices of young protagonists on the stage and hold one performance annually that spotlights the writing talents of Central Florida youth.

Joni Newman is the education coordinator for Writes of Spring. She describes the program’s process on the Orlando Rep website: “Before we can honor student voice, we need to foster it. Our workshops, then, are an important part of what we do each year. We visit classrooms and work with students on developing more dynamic language to more fully explain how they feel and think. We have them show us with their bodies the difference in what different synonyms mean. Then, we have them begin writing. If, for example, they describe getting a great gift, we challenge them to consider if they were happy or ecstatic by remembering how the two words felt in their bodies. Part of honoring student voice is empowering them to more fully express themselves in the first place.”

According to the Orlando Rep, the ideas from the entries inspire the play and the actual text written by students is incorporated into the script dialogue.

Playwright Sage Tokach spends time with each winning piece as she goes through the adaptation process, ensuring that the short play represents the winners’ voices.

The 25 students are invited to a workshop to explore the themes and ideas associated with their piece. In February, they are invited to see a performance of the new work and they receive a copy of the script in which they are given credit for their own words.

This is a project of the University of Central Florida’s Theatre for Young Audiences MFA students. They manage the contest and the production and are supported and mentored by Orlando Rep staff.

Amy Quesinberry is the community editor of the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She was born and raised in Winter Garden, grew up reading the community newspaper and has been employed there as a writer, photographer and editor since 1990....

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