Marilyn Bianchi Kids’ Playwriting Festival encourages unfiltered imagination

For the readers who don’t know me, I am a huge theater geek. I love working on theatrical productions, from acting to directing and even working backstage or in the booth. However, one aspect that I always have issue with is playwriting. I truly love playwriting and well-written plays. I just find that I have little talent for it. It often seems to me that playwriting is the most difficult task to truly excel at. While directing, acting and designing certainly take skill, playwriting is something that takes time to cultivate, and requires an incredibly strong imagination.

Marilyn Bianchi was an actress, director, educator and co-founder of Dobama Theatre. Although she passed from cancer in 1977, she used her last years to continue doing the work that she loved. She continued reaching out to students and schools in the Cleveland area, to help children discover their voice, and how theater can be useful to showcase their creativity. Two years after her death, her family and friends helped to establish the Marilyn Bianchi Kids’ Playwriting Festival, in order to continue her legacy of teaching the joys of live theater and celebrating young artists.

For the past 38 years, Dobama Theater has been accepting short, 10 to 15 page scripts from children throughout Cuyahoga County between the first and twelfth grades. After choosing a number of plays, the winners rehearse and perform the shows in the summer. This Dobama tradition, occurring since 1979, was the very first event of its kind, celebrating the imagination and art of young artists. This year’s winners were announced on April 1. The plays that were chosen this year are from children of varying ages and backgrounds, from the play, “Crazy, Lazy Zeus” by second grader August Malemud of Solon and “Amanda’s Escape” by third grader Ava Kaminski in University Heights, all the way to “I Spy”by 12th grader Gus Mahoney of Shaker Heights and “Morrison v. Danvers” by 12th grader Cleveland resident Yaire Rodriguez. For the full list of plays chosen and given distinctions, you can find it on the Marilyn Bianchi Kids’ Playwriting Festival’s Facebook page.

Encouragement of the arts is something that is sorely missed by many. It takes incredible amounts of imagination to make art. It is for this reason that theater done by kids is so astonishing. Children have near limitless amounts of imagination and passion. When a child creates art, what you see isn’t restrained or focused; it’s an insight into that child’s mind, a glimpse at unfiltered imagination: Something that creates much more interesting and fun art. It’s that sort of imagination and creativity that is at the center of the Marilyn Bianchi Kids’ Playwriting Festival. I believe that Marilyn Bianchi herself put it best: “In a world full of breaking things, we want to encourage you to make things.”

The play will be performed June 2-4 at Dobama Theatre. Tickets are $25.