On February 17, 2021

Dorset Theatre Festival’s Young Playwrights Program goes virtual for 2021

Dorset Theatre Festival is taking its acclaimed Art of storytelling and playwriting workshops online to students this spring. Building on the success of their first online workshop in fall 2020, the festival is expanding its offerings to reach as many middle and high school students in Vermont as possible and provide support to Vermont teachers.

“This pandemic time has been uniquely suited to introspection and imagination, which are the building blocks of storytelling and play-making,” said Heidi Armbruster, a New York City-based theatre artist who has worked extensively in creating new work, both as a playwright and an actor. Her play “Mrs. Christie” had its world premiere at Dorset in 2019. As a performer, Armbruster’s credits include Broadway, Lincoln Center, and many appearances in film and television, including as the character Michelle on TVLand’s “Younger.”

The program’s goal, according to Armbruster, is to provide an online interactive course in playwriting for students without creating additional lesson-planning for educators. Instructors may schedule a session for a whole class, individual sessions for specific students, or simply use videos from the course in their own lesson plans as they wish.

“In the classroom experiences that I have had so far, the experience of making something together – even in an online format – has created a sense of community, and that has been exciting and healing,” Armbruster said. She and Dorset Theatre Festival are currently in the process of enrolling students and classrooms for the 2021 program, which will continue online.

The online interactive course in playwriting is free. It is a modular masterclass geared to students from 6th to 12th grade. It builds upon the Festival’s successful 8-year collaboration with area schools, putting professional teaching artists, playwrights and professional theatre artists in classrooms at no cost.

“Our stages may be dark, but there is much drama in the world. Now, more than ever, students need to find a safe and creative outlet for their voices.  We are also excited to support Vermont’s dedicated teachers, giving them this free offering to use as part of their classroom teaching during this challenging time,” said Dina Janis, Dorset’s artistic director.

Students who participate in the program and complete an original play will be invited to submit to the annual Jean E. Miller Young Playwrights Competition.  Submitted plays are then read and judged by leading playwrights from around the country. The winning submissions will be performed in an online community event for students, teachers, and family members in fall 2021.

Interested regional youth, students, teachers, homeschoolers, or schools should contact Heidi Armbruster at: heidiyp@dorsettheatrefestival.org.

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