Thespians to share writing, acting skills in fundraiser

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

Greencastle Amateur Players will perform in town Saturday evening, but this show has a new spin. The vignettes were all written by GAP alumni. Five plays and a monologue will be presented at Evangelical Lutheran Church, with the longest running 10 minutes. The debut Young Playwright's Festival begins at 6:30 p.m. at 130 N. Washington St. The evening will also be used as a fundraiser for Child Justice, Inc.

Ellen Burke, now a teacher in Washington D.C., planned the event for area youth to explore and showcase their talents. GAP has traditionally presented plays in the summer at Jerome R. King Playground.

"I wanted to branch out from what we usually do," she said. "We said, 'if you want to write, you can write. If you want to direct, you can direct, no experience needed.'"

She supported everyone getting the opportunity to try something new, and recalled a former member who experimented with costume design. Today the person has a college degree in theatre and designs professionally in Dallas.

"You just never know what someone will do if they just get that first chance."

GAP held open casting calls Friday, Feb. 15, with the first practice then as well. The children returned for a day of rehearsals on Feb. 16, and will do that again all day on March 2.

A bake sale will start at 5 p.m. Saturday. After the festival, a screening of the film "No Way Out But One" will be held at 8 p.m. Admission for the evening activities is free, but donations will be accepted. Proceeds go to Child Justice, Inc. and a local family benefitting from its services.

"Child Justice is a wonderful organization that advocates for abused, neglected and at-risk children," Burke continued. "It's also focused on giving children a voice and chances they wouldn't necessarily have otherwise, so in that sense, we have a common goal, helping kids start to live their best lives."

Eileen King, founder of the non-profit organization, will be present. The film is an award-winning documentary about the first American woman to be granted asylum by the Netherlands on the grounds of domestic violence. DVDs of the movie, plus the book "Our Broken Family Court System", will be for sale as a package for $15.

The playwrights

David Hills, a senior at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, Hagerstown, Md., has been involved in GAP for seven years. He acted and co-directed a play when he was 16.

Francis Peet, a junior at Olney Friends School, Barnesville, Ohio, participated in GAP for nine years.

Fiona Burke, 16, is in the Early to College program at Penn State Mont Alto. Her play is the first she's ever written, and she has been a GAP member for 10 years.

Miriam Thornton is also a first-time playwright, but has written, directed and acted in many skits with her family. She has been with GAP for six years.

Jessie McIntosh Burke wrote a play for GAP in 2007, and adapted the novel "Little Women" into a play for a performance in Jackson, Miss. With GAP, she has been an actress, director, writer and stage crew member.

While Ellen Burke is behind the scenes now, she expects all the young actors to have fun, and gain self-esteem, confidence, teamwork and leadership skills. She knows from past experience that they will solidify friendships.