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2024 Young Playwrights Festival

June 5, 2024

What do a melted candle, a giant turtle, and a missing beef jerky recipe have in common? They’re all featured elements of the award-winning plays featured in this year’s Young Playwrights Festival.

Each year, FST’s WRITE A PLAY program brings the joy of creativity and playwriting to K-12 students in schools across the state — and beyond! Then, students submit their finished works to FST to be considered for our annual Young Playwrights Festival. In this exciting event, FST rolls out the red carpet and welcomes students, educators, and families to join us on campus in a celebration of the thousands of WRITE A PLAY submissions received during the year.

“I’m so excited to meet the students who have brought us these touching and hilarious plays,” said FST Children’s Theatre Associate Kacy Jones. “It’s also so special to see the grown-ups in the room realize how talented and passionate their young people are about playwriting.”

This year’s winning plays represent a wide variety of genres, themes, and styles. For example, Big Turtle Problem, written by Sebastian Popoca — a New Jersey third grader — tells a cautionary tale about the desire to grow up too fast, framed within the story of a turtle who literally grows so large that he must move to the zoo. The piece ends with the moving lines: “Sometimes it’s okay to be small and happy and not want to grow up so fast. Sometimes it’s okay to be a small turtle in a big world, more than a big turtle in a small world.” Other pieces take a more comedic bent to their storytelling, such as the award-winning play West Town, by Kingsley Romeo Garcia Trujilo. This play, described by the playwright as a “comedy-action Western,” tells an epic (and humorous) tale of adventure, revenge, and cowboys.

Each of the winning plays is performed on the Keating Theatre stage by a company of professional actors decked out with all the colorful costumes and zany props they need to bring these highly imaginative stories to life. Then, all winning and honorable-mention playwrights are awarded medals and certificates in recognition of their accomplishments.

“In a world that often prioritizes academic and athletic success, I am honored to help produce this festival that celebrates the artistic and creative achievements of young people in our community,” said Caroline Saldivar, FST’s Director of Children’s Theatre.

This year’s Young Playwrights Festival will also recognize the achievements of one extraordinary teacher, who has earned the title of this year’s Educator of the Year. Sherri Braunstein is a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Tatum Ridge Elementary School in Sarasota, FL. Braunstein has been participating in WRITE A PLAY for several years, and her classrooms have produced multiple winning plays. This year, two of her students’ plays — The Bird Who Flew the Coop and The Flying Penguin — will be performed at the festival.

“Braunstein is an active participant in WRITE A PLAY,” said Jones. “Not only does she bring the WRITE A PLAY tour to her fourth-grade classrooms, but she has also encouraged many fifth-grade students to submit plays to the program. Each year, Braunstein goes above and beyond in ensuring that the fourth and fifth grade students of Tatum Ridge make their voices heard!”

To learn more about how you can join us in helping nurture the next generation of playwrights, please contact Melody Mora-Shihadeh at melody@floridastudiotheatre.org.