BWW Preview: Eight Youth Playwrights See Work Come to Life in Competition at Carrollwood Players Theater

By: Apr. 17, 2017
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On April 29-30, 2017, fourteen adult actors will bring to stage the trials and tribulations of middle school life in KIDSPEAK 2.0, a staged reading in the CWP Black Box at Carrollwood Players.

Earlier this year, the theatre reached out to the community and invited budding young playwrights to submit new, original short plays for their second youth playwriting challenge. Of the nearly 50 submissions, judges chose 8 original plays written by third through seventh graders.

KIDSPEAK brings the imagination of these children to life as their short plays receive their world premiere with a cast of adult actors in the CWP Black Box at Carrollwood Players as a staged reading.

From true love, disobeying parents, bullying, and an immigration English test to a robot dog, a spell book, friendship, and self-reliance, the play topics are a varied as the young writers selected from Academy Prep Center of Tampa, Orange Grove Middle Magnet School of the Arts, and Montessori Children's House of Hyde Park.

Featured plays are Busted by Jaiden Battle age 11; The Rumors by Zandra Barnes, age 11; Adam and I Til Dawn by Jada Holland, age 12; My Next-Door Neighbor by AryAnna Gregory, age 10; The Book Spell by Gabrielle Odolphe, age 10; Donnie and His Conscience by Yasmin Serrano, age 11; The Seven Habit Dilemma by Ilyana Woodring, age 11 and Robot Dog's Plan by triplets, Antony, Gian & Stefan Simonetti, ages 9.

Director Leo Salerno returned for his second year and was pleased to share his role with the show's youth director, twelve-year-old actress Maggie Gamson.

Maggie submitted an application and was accepted as the inaugural youth director in the annual event.

She said, "I really enjoy performing and want to see what directing is like. I also think it would be a good opportunity to see a show come together from another perspective."

The directors immediately delved into two nights of auditions to cast fourteen returning and debuting actors in these fun short performances.

Returning KIDSPEAK actors are Alexa Sheppard, Carlee Soto, Kenneth Grace, and Jim Moss. Making their KIDSPEAK 2.0 debut are Jacob Mohr, Monique Brown, Gemma Davimes, Larry Corwin, Heather Clark, Petra Sussman, Casper Hignite, Dale Noss, Cinda Goeken, and Travis Byington.

Producers Deb Kelley and Jim Russell are excited to have two judges returning, adding a third, and a youth judge to the panel.

Judges Luana Mitten, publisher of BeaLu Books, director Matt Belopavlovich, director/actor/singer Shaun Rice, and youth judge actress/comedian Nicole Lauren have the difficult responsibility of choosing their favorite plays. Those votes in combination with the audience's favorite will award first, second, and third place trophies after the final performance on Sunday night.

"This staged reading is very special for two reasons - we get to showcase the talents of young writers that may never have seen their work produced without KIDSPEAK 2.0 and we give busy adults the opportunity to perform without a lengthy rehearsal or show commitment," said Deb. "We have the honor of potentially being the first step for a young playwright, who as an adult, is destined to have a show on Broadway. To think KIDSPEAK 2.0 could be the starting point is very exciting."

CWP Black Box at Carrollwood Players is located at 4333 Gunn Hwy. KIDSPEAK 2.0 is Saturday, April 21 at 3pm and Sunday, April 30, 7pm. Tickets are $10 general admission. Advance tickets can be purchased at