Philadelphia Young Playwrights gave 17 high school students across Philadelphia the chance to see their original work come to life on stage with professional actors, blocking, light and sound. One of these talented students was Esperanza Academy’s own Adrian Vega. The culmination of these efforts resulted in the 2015 Young Voices Monologue Festival at Interact Theater.
Esperanza Academy Theater and Film teacher, writer, producer and director Dwight Wilkins encouraged Vega as well as his other students on their creative journeys as writers and performers. “He’s very talented and it was a great opportunity to be able to see him apply his writing talent in this venue. This is my first year here, so I was excited to get them exposed to this. This is what I do. I’m a professional playwright,” said Wilkins.
Vega expressed his appreciation for his teacher’s encouragement,“When I first wrote it, I thought, ‘I don’t want to write this,’ and I wanted to throw it away, but he read it and he actually liked it and told me that I should keep on writing it. So, he had a good effect on me, because he was the one that actually helped me to put it out there.”
He was also grateful for the opportunity to work with other professionals in Philadelphia’s theater scene, “I got to work with somebody who has a lot of experience in writing, and because they have the experience they helped me revise and work with certain things to make my writing a lot better.” But, it doesn’t just stop at this success. Student’s like Vega are impacted in a much deeper way when they are recognized for their successes among their peers and among people whom they respect and admire.
“I felt like this experience was good, because for the first time, I actually published and got recognized for what I did. It actually feels good, because now I can say that, ‘Yeah I did this, and I accomplished what I wanted to do.’ At first I was nervous, like its 400 kids that are going to submit something, so what are the odds that mine out of 400 is getting chosen? That recognition felt good, because the way I see it is if I write good and people are recognizing what I do, then me writing will actually bring more attention to myself, and I can actually make it somewhere with writing,” said Vega.
The content of the monologue itself is representative of the challenges that Vega and his peers face everyday, “I wrote about a mother trying to convince another son that taking the drug route will never- like there’s always another way to get what you want in your life. Even if your poor, there’s always another way. Violence isn’t always an answer to everything. The life I live, I kind of, like, have watched people get killed over the use of drugs, so I could relate it to my story a lot.”
This is his reality, but because of the opportunities that Philadelphia Young Playwrights and other programs offer, because of teachers like Dwight Wilkins who pass on their wealth of experience to their students, because of schools like Esperanza Academy that recognize student success through the struggle, that kids like Adrian Vega are able to change the world.
“This story has a lot to do with where I live in Philly. If you live around here, you know about the things that go on and how living around here is. I actually read this monologue to a couple of friends and they actually really liked it and said that it helps them to get in touch with themselves on how to change to not go down the same route the rest of the family went.
If you write a play and people actually come to watch it, they’ll get so entertained, because it’s a play first. Like reading an article, sometimes it might confuse you and you never get the point, but if you watch a play, you get to watch it visually, you get to hear it and if you get the script you get to read it for yourself. So then, you have three different ways of paying attention to one certain thing and then the message will come across a lot clearer. And, if you bring people to watch it with you, it will get the message across to more people and the more people watch it, the more the message gets across and then it can change things.”
With insight like this, Vega and his classmates will most certainly “change things.”