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East County Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 12 years ago

Community quotations inspire documentary theater festival

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Dane LaFemina’s passion is for musical theater, but his most recent project beckoned an unparalleled enthusiasm — one he can’t wait to share with the community.

He and dozens of other local high school thespians have been working to create original documentary pieces, using quotes from interviews with community members to form the scripts for their shows.

Theater groups from Lakewood Ranch, Southeast and Booker high schools and The Out-of-Door Academy will perform their pieces during the Lend Us Your Voice theater festival Dec. 3-5 at ODA’s new black box theater.

“People’s words are dramatic in themselves,” LaFemina said. “The interviews have driven us. There’s a lot of passion involved in this. We read the show and we say, ‘Let’s do these people justice.’”

Lakewood Ranch High School’s show, “(Ab)normal,” for example, examines what society and the community see as normal and abnormal.

LaFemina and theater partner Lucas Thompson interviewed a parent involved in Manasota BUDS, a non-profit dedicated to families of children with Down syndrome, as well as a psychologist. From them, the teens got an intimate view of what it’s like raising a child with a disability — the fears, challenges and triumphs — as well as a better understanding of mental disorders such as schizophrenia.

“It’s been an unbelievable experience,” LaFemina said. “The interviews we got to do have literally changed some of our lives — they changed mine.”

For the last 14 weeks, students have been working with Leah Page and Emily Freeman of the Asolo Repertory Theater to develop their plays.

The effort is part of a pilot program Page and a colleague came up with last year.

“This idea of storytelling through words from your community (is) using voices of the people around you as a way to engage audience members,” said Page, who is co-directing the plays with Freeman. “We were just passionate about this style of theater and we wanted to pursue it.”

Page and Freeman have been overseeing the process as students conducted interviews and created their plays. They also helped compile interviews into a script format.

“The big thing is having the student engage in their community — taking them out of their world and giving them a new understanding of the issue they’ve explored. Rather than doing a research project, which can be impersonal, they’ve had to embody these people. It creates an empathy for the tops they are covering.”

Students also have choreographed dances, written poetry and created other works to add information or provide transitions between different monologues and sections of their performances. And because students have created the pieces themselves, they feel a tremendous sense of ownership in their work.

“This is what we’ve created,” LaFemina said. “It’s a true piece that all of us have a personal connection to.”

Page said she hopes to do the program again next year.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].


Lakewood Ranch High School: “(Ab)normal” — A show questioning what is normal in our society and community.
The Out-of-Door Academy: “Groupz!?!?” — A show exploring social groups and cliques in high school and beyond.
Booker High School
: “A Mark Left Behind” — Stories about physical and emotional scars, as well as scars we see in our community.
Southeast High School
: “What’s My Age Again?” — A show exploring ageism in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Lend Us Your Voice
SHOWTIMES: Booker High and ODA: 7 p.m., Dec. 3; Lakewood Ranch and Booker: 7 p.m., Dec. 4; ODA and Southeast: 2 p.m., Dec. 5; Lakewood Ranch and Southeast: 7 p.m., Dec. 5
WHERE: The Out-of-Door Academy, 5950 Deer Drive, Lakewood Ranch

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