By Natasha Ashby
This year, two juniors, Manna Symone-Middlebrooks and Jenn Wright, had theatrical works showcased in the New Voices: Workshop Productions at the Tomlinson Theater at Temple University.
Both students had winning submissions in different Philadelphia Young Playwrights competitions, which they entered as sophomores through Mr. Block or Ms. Pahomov’s English classes.
The name of Manna’s play is “But, I’ve got my Fingers and These Ashes.” iIt follows the life of a family living in Sri Lanka at a sweat shop, the factory owner and an intern.
The idea came from one of Mr. Block’s assignments last year.
“I watched a set of videos on PBS, which gave me insight on sweatshop and the impact it had on American culture. I chose a topic people could relate to easily, sweatshops, because we all wear clothes, shoes, underwear, so it all relates.
Manna’s play was actually a series of monologues. “I used monologues spoken by different people and put them together to create a story. I wanted the audience to see that there is more than one way to tell a story and that in order to get the whole picture you have to consider all the eyes looking at the story. Also we have to realize that what we do in America has an international impact.”
Jenn Wright’s monologue, titled “It’s Chuck,” told the story of a seventh grade boy trying to re-invent himself on the first day of school.
Her winning piece was actually written at the last minute, when she ditched the draft she had submitted in class. ” I had the other idea for a long time, and this one just kinda flowed out of me. It came very easily to me. The story was all in my head and it just came down to formatting it into a monologue and not a short story.”
Many students wanted their plays/monologues to be relatable so that the audience can truly understand the point of the pieces of work. “I didn’t write it to be a super hilarious monologue,” said Wright. “I did want it to have a sort of light heartedness to it, because a lot of the other pieces were serious and dramatic so I wanted mine to be different.”
Neither of the winners expected to get chosen. ” I was really surprised, I submitted it because it was a piece I enjoyed writing and I just thought if they liked it, they liked it, if they didn’t, they didn’t,” said Wright.
“I like to win, so I claimed the win before I win,” said Symone-Middlebrooks. I did not expect it to get chosen, but I kept telling myself, you got this, as a way of keeping myself in a positive state.”
Both students were pleased with how their work was portrayed on stage by the actors. “I think the interpretation they had was better than what I had in mind since they were the audience at first and then the actors”, said Symone-Middlebrooks. While Jenn just enjoyed working with the actors because she has not spent a lot of time working in theatre.
The work was presented on November 3rd and November 5th, and was performed by temple theatre undergraduate actors, with many SLA students, teachers, and families in attendance.
“I liked that Manna’s was not really a play but a set of monologue put together,” said SLA Junior Allison Patterson. “I liked that Jenn’s had a lot of energy, and it was awkward but a good kind of awkward.”
After being introduced to several plays/monologues last year in Ms. Pahomov’s class, Junior Sam Lovett-Perkins felt that attending this year was a must.
“I liked Jenn’s because it kinda reflected myself, so I could relate to her story and I thought it was creatively written. Manna’s was really deep and it touched on a very serious issue. But it was really special and the writing was amazing! I thought of it as a monologue project but it was actually a bunch of monologues shoved together which made a good story.”
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