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Are We Writing Loud Enough? The Diary 21 Project

Posted By Nicole Lorenzetti, AATE NY State Representative and Young Playwrights Inc, Monday, April 16, 2012

Diary 21, a collaboration between the Anne Frank Center USA, Vineyard Theatre, and Young Playwrights Inc., supports lessons of art, literacy, and tolerance in the classroom.Through the program, Anne Frank’s Diary and spirit inspire students to explore their own personal story through discussion, playwriting, and performance.

On May 21, 2012, a house full of eager theatre-goers will settle in for an evening of short plays. These 20 works, however, are not your average plays—they are based on themes from Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. The pieces were chosen out of approximately 215 plays submitted from the Hostos-Lincoln Academy, Gramercy Arts High School, New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies, and Washington Irving High School through the Diary 21 project.

In the fall, the writers from these four schools attended the Anne Frank Center USA where they had the opportunity to hear a Holocaust survivor who hid with her family in a barn for almost a year. Writers then learned specifically about Anne and the Frank family and discussed the importance of Anne’s record of her experience. Writers were then charged with reading excerpts from the Diary as well as the graphic novel Anne Frank: The Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

Following this trip to AFC, the Diary 21 writers were visited by a workshop leader from Young Playwrights Inc. They participated in a series of seven workshops that taught students the basics of playwriting in order for them to write their own play. The writers focused on themes from Anne’s diary such as first love, the feeling of injustice and misunderstanding, and conflict resolution. In the end, each writer wrote a play and submitted their work to the Diary 21 project competition.

20 of these plays have been chosen for performance. They were assembled into a working script of both full plays and excerpts, and this was sent to the Vineyard Theatre Student Acting Company who will be performing with professional actors for the benefit performance. For many of these writers it was the first time they had the opportunity to see their work done on a professional stage.

How is this project different than any other project we do at Young Playwrights Inc.? When we signed on to this consortium we took a leap—focusing writing specifically on a piece of literature that speaks to many millions across the world rather than leaving the subject matter open for the writers. We had to choose new guiding questions for the project and for the writers; for example, what does Anne have to say to her writing peers today in the 21st Century? How are her experiences as a young writer similar to those of you as a young writer today? How does Anne speak to you?

This collaboration has turned out to be a success and one that we look forward to every year. How have you taken a leap in your programming lately? How have you stretched your vision to achieve new work? Have you considered collaborating with others outside of your art form? What have you achieved from these collaborations?


Nicole Lorenzetti is the Education Manager at Young Playwrights Inc. She is the co-chair of the New York Theatre In Our Schools conference and serves as New York State Rep with Jennifer DiBella of Roundabout Theatre Company.

Tags:  networks  Playwrights  Playwriting 

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