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Giving young writers a professional voice

The ‘Young Voices Monologue Festival’ features work by local high school students performed by professional actors.

Students wave to David O’Connor as he walks through Annenberg Hall. They know him as an adjunct professor in the School of Communications, but outside of Temple University, he’s better known as a director, working regularly at local companies like the Arden and Lantern Theater Co. Like so many local theater professionals, he’s perpetually juggling the roles of artist and teacher.

But over the last few weeks, he has managed to combine the two, as he directs “The Young Voices Monologue Festival.” Produced by Philadelphia Young Playwrights and InterAct Theatre Co., the show presents 15 monologues written by Philadelphia teenagers and performed by professional actors.

“When we’re in rehearsal, the kids get to see two adults, who are good at this craft, taking the text as seriously as they would Shakespeare,” says O’Connor. “That’s really where the magic happens, because the student can see and feel what’s working in the writing.”

There is no limit on the subject matter or language, either. War, racism, abuse and prison are all described in stark, very real language.

“These writers all understand the need for it to appear and feel spontaneous. In this style of theater, we’re not interested in seeing a speech,” says O’Connor. “Most writing in school really only sets us up for a limited kind of thinking. We don’t ask kids to apply it to their life as they live right now. We don’t ask them enough for new ideas and imagination.”

 
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