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PlayWrite teens play it right on stage

Two characters, two languages, and two weeks to put it all together — that’s what six students were working with when they each crafted an imaginative, entertaining, relatable one-act play through a program called PlayWrite.

The results played out on the stage of the Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro last Monday, July 8, when the teens’ scripts were performed by a cast of local professional actors (including the man whose recorded voice announces the MAX stops).

PlayWrite is part of Bienestar, a nonprofit that creates housing for low-income families and also provides education and community-building activities for its tenants. PlayWrite is for Bienestar youth, who collaborate with theater professionals to create and direct an original play. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Matt Deegan and Emily Glisan play the roles of a washcloth and snowflake in Isai Bricenos play Getting Confidence Instead of Losing Confidence.

The teens wrote every word of their scripts, and even with a professional cast, they were the real stars of the show.

Before each play began, the writer stood before the audience to introduce the characters and set the scene, reading his or her own words both in English and in Spanish.

The actors then performed with a physical copy of the script in hand.

Each play featured two characters, both non-human. The students invented vibrant personalities for everything from a groovy, music-loving piece of seaweed to a weepy cloud to a grumpy old codger of a pinecone who was bitter he’d fallen from a tree.

Through their two characters’ relationship, the teens tackled adolescent themes such as the meaning of friendship and trust; the need for respect and belonging; and the delicate balance between security and independence.

One storyline followed an angry bull and his laid-back seaweedy friend. The bull was upset because his brother thought he was weak and didn’t respect him. The seaweed decided to try to calm down the bull by playing music on his magical rock.

But the gesture went awry when the bull learned his seaweed friend had stolen the rock — and lied about it.

Titles such as “Line of Support,” “Freedom or Friendship” and “Gaining Confidence Instead of Losing Confidence” hinted that the young writers had addressed these challenges in their own lives.

The works were amusing, expressive and the themes were universal enough that their messages could be understood even across language barriers.

Four plays were written in English, one was entirely in Spanish, and in one play, a Spanish-speaking character and an English-speaking character interacted as though they were speaking the same language.

Although the Spanish scripts were available in English, the PlayWrite coaches said the audience would be surprised how much could be conveyed just by watching.

The coaches were right. The non-human, Spanish-speaking characters were lifelike and understandable to English speakers.

None of the teens had written a play before. One young man said he’d always been more interested in sports; while three others said they were forced to sign up for PlayWrite against their wishes.

All of them, however, said they ended up enjoying the experience.



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