Watson Students & City Theatre Partner

Students from the Watson Institute’s Friendship Academy partnered again with the City Theatre’s professional teaching artists as they read through student-written plays recently as they presented “An Afternoon of One-Act Plays” at the school. Special education teachers at Watson build creative learning opportunities into classroom projects, such as this Playwright Discovery Program and City Theatre collaboration.

The Pittsburgh City Theatre collaborated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the first time last year to bring the VSA Playwright Discovery Program to Pittsburgh classrooms. Playwright Discovery gives students with and without disabilities the opportunity to write and submit one-act plays, exploring the disability experience. For the past two years, City Theatre has selected the Friendship Academy, a school for kids with emotional and behavioral challenges, as its partnering school.

“We are very thankful for the opportunity to work with City Theatre and proud of our students’ accomplishments. The play writing experience sparked the students’ imagination, innovation, and creativity skills and also boosted their confidence.” said Lauri Kragness, Education Director and Co-Program Director at the Watson Institute’s Friendship Academy.

“Through the program we’re providing a new outlet in which students can express themselves.” said Kristen Link, Director of Education and Accessibility at the City Theatre.

High school students from eight Friendship Academy classrooms have worked with two professional actors from the City Theatre Company since February to write their one-act plays. Siovhan Christensen and Shannon Reed mentored students through the process of writing, coaching them to explore their creativity, and taught them about the performing arts.

Recently, six professional actors, including Christensen and Reed, read excerpts from the students’ plays aloud in front of an audience of their peers and teachers. “We’re really happy to be back for our second year here at the Friendship Academy.” said Kristen Link. “It was great to look out in the audience and we’d be reading the students’ plays- even if sometimes they felt like they had to hide their face underneath their shirts, they would look up again and they’d be smiling so I think they really enjoyed it.”