Bethlehem, PA – Touchstone Theatre proudly presents the twelfth year of its acclaimed Young Playwrights’ Festival. This showcase of new plays written by local elementary, middle, and high school students performs on May 13th at Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall. The full evening includes a preshow party and post-show gala reception in the Lehigh University Black Box Theatre. Young Playwrights’ Lab is an eight-week arts and literacy residency developed by Touchstone and the Bethlehem Area School District using theatre as a “Trojan Horse” to improve student attitudes toward writing and creative self-expression. Through theatre improvisation, writing exercises, and collaborative critique, each student writes an original one-act play. Those plays are then submitted for consideration to be performed in the annual Young Playwrights’ Festival. After over a decade working with schools in Bethlehem and Allentown, the Lab reached students in Easton for the first time this year, as well as serving its first full residency of high school playwrights.

From this year’s programs, over 100 plays were submitted; five exceptional scripts were chosen for full production in the Festival: An Ancient Trap, by Modesty Castro of Freemansburg Elementary; Holding On by Alycia LaLuz of Liberty High; Declared War by Isaiah Santana of Lincoln Leadership Academy; The Haunted Football Field by the students of Easton Area Academy; and Crazy Farm Family by Dianaliz Vargas of Central Elementary. Select scenes from the four semi-finalist plays will be performed by the Touchstone Ensemble and teaching artists: The Puppy Eating Zombie by Niasia Sanchez of Marvine Elementary; Willy the Whale by Jomari Sotomayor of Lincoln Elementary; Jade, Theodore, & the Library by Seraphina Papagni of Farmersville Elementary; and The Princes, Superman, and the Apple Pie by Alyssa Lynn Nonnemacher of Donegan Elementary. Directed by Touchstone’s ensemble of artists, the plays are performed by Touchstone actors, community performers, and students from area schools.

“For the past twelve years, the Young Playwrights’ Festival has stood apart from any other local stage performance, bar none. There's simply no other night that shines the spotlight on literary and theatrical expression the way this evening does,” says Louis Cinquino, Festival Committee Chair. “And the Gala Reception that follows the performance is a big reason why Touchstone has been able to maintain and expand the Young Playwrights’ Lab program in the Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, and other school districts. Until you've attended this festival, you haven't really seen the Lehigh Valley at its best.”

The evening opens with a preshow “Meet the Playwrights” party with light fare and kid-oriented basket raffles in the Black Box Theatre. The party, which celebrates the 2016-17 program's young playwrights, is included in the Festival ticket and is open to all festival-goers. The student playwrights will be in attendance, as well as the Young Playwrights’ Lab teaching artists.

After the performance, the Black Box space shifts gears to house the Festival’s ticketed gala dessert reception and auction. Gala attendees get a chance to mingle with the Touchstone Ensemble and enjoy sumptuous desserts, an open bar, and live music while further supporting Touchstone and its arts-in-education programming through a live and silent auction.

Touchstone's season is sponsored by First Generation, an integrated marketing communications company, and RCN. Media sponsorship is provided by WDIY, and print sponsorship is provided by Working Dog Press. The Festival’s 2017 naming sponsor is Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt, & Fader, LLC.

The Young Playwrights’ Lab program is gratefully supported through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program by BB&T Bank, Embassy Bank, and Lafayette Ambassador Bank and by the following local corporations and foundations: Air Products and Chemicals Foundation, Bethlehem Rotary Foundation, Crayola, The Century Fund, Charles H. Hoch Foundation, Just Born, Inc., and Rider-Pool Foundation. The program is also generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

The Twelfth Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival takes place on Saturday, May 13, 2017. The preshow “Meet the Playwrights” party begins at 6:00pm in Black Box; theatre doors to Baker Hall open at 6:40pm for the 7:00pm festival performance; the Gala follows directly after the Festival until 10:30pm. Festival tickets are $10 for students, $15 for adults, and $75 for the Festival and Gala. Advance tickets may be purchased at 610-867-1689 or online at www.touchstone.org

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About Touchstone

Founded in 1981, Touchstone Theatre produces and presents both original and classic productions, with a dedication to the renewal of theatre as a vital art form. Touchstone works to foster collaboration on a local and national level through educational and youth empowerment programs, using theatre as a community-building tool. Visit us on the web at www.touchstone.org