Teen thespian invited to playwright panel

Fourteen-year-old Ava Petroski earned a perfect score in the Florida Junior Thespian State Festival and also has been accepted into Valencia College’s Florida Playwright Competition.

Ava Petroski earned several awards for her scene writing, solo musical and set design skills at the Florida Junior Thespian State Festival.
Ava Petroski earned several awards for her scene writing, solo musical and set design skills at the Florida Junior Thespian State Festival.
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Writing comes naturally for some people — especially to Ava Petroski, who turns 14 this week and recently has received accolades for her work in two separate competitions.

In February, Ava attended the annual Florida Junior Thespian State Festival at the Orange County Convention Center with other drama department students from Gotha Middle School. She achieved a perfect score and beat out all other writers from around the state.

“The whole event was a giant playground for thespians,” Ava said. “It had workshops every day for just about any subject — stage combat, improv and dancing, to name a few. Students could meet new kids, teachers and even some guest celebrities. I bounced between doing my events, watching my friends perform and attending workshops.”

Ava participated in scene writing, solo musical and set design events. Her performance of “Kiss of the Spider Woman” from the musical of the same name earned an Excellent, as did her set for the “Pure Imagination” scene from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Her writing piece, titled “Cheating,” earned a Superior, which is a perfect score, and Judge’s Choice for Best in Show. She received a trophy, medal and Superior button. In her scene, a student named Ella is trying to cheat during a quiz and attempts to copy off another student, Quint. He repeatedly foils her schemes, but she manages to get his answers. At the end of the scene, Quint reveals he wrote down all the wrong answers and changed them at the last minute in case anyone tried to copy his work.

“Earning Best in Show was something I’ve never imagined achieving,” Ava said. “I had a lot of difficulty finding a topic to write about, and I’ve never gotten a Best in Show award at Junior Thespians before. Before we found out our scores, a couple of students from my troupe wondered if I would get the award. I responded by saying that I would be just as happy sitting in the audience with them at closing ceremonies. Our troupe had grown and bonded throughout the months, and I realized I really did mean what I said. So winning was an indescribable overwhelming of emotions. I was proud of the rest of my troupe — and myself for being the first student to win Best in Show at my school.”

Additionally, Ava entered a Florida Playwright Competition open to adults and professional writers through Valencia College, and her scene was one of the few picked to be directed and performed by the school’s theater students at Valencia’s One Act Festival showcase April 19 and 20. Ava will participate in the meet-and-greet and panel of the winning writers, who will field questions from the college students in the program.

It’s also the first time she will get paid and has to sign a usage rights contract allowing Valencia to use it.

She said the contract makes the acceptance even more official and means she’s a professional writer now.

“I found out the day after I won Best in Show,” Ava said. “I was catching up on missed schoolwork from my time at the festival when my mom and sister came into the room cheering. I thought I wasn’t going to get in; I was competing against writers whose work has been published or already recognized across the country. I was so happy (with the previous honors), I vowed to not be upset if my scene wasn’t chosen. So, hearing the news was, as my mom said, ‘a sign from the universe.’ It meant that maybe this is what I’m meant to do.”

As for sitting on a panel with adults, Ava is prepared.

“It sounds like the start of a funny joke: A middle schooler is going to be answering questions from college students,” she said. “I have to remind myself that I have the same right to be there as everyone else and that I know what I wrote (is) better than anyone. At the end of the day, it’s about putting on a great show and having a love for theater.”

Ava said she isn’t sure what she wants to do for a career.

“I love to write and perform, but I have so many other hobbies and interests,” she said. “While I don’t want to narrow everything down yet, I do know that writing will always be a part of my life. … I’ve always wanted to be a writer.”



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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