I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about LEAP (Learn Early About Playwriting), a program that has just completed its 9th year at the Arts Club Theatre Company and which it has been my great privilege to lead for the past eight. This program is important because it helps foster a love for theatre in young people. To me, its real and lasting value lies in the program’s approach to creativity and the way that it strives to empower young, creative writers to be fully in command of their work and to move confidently toward adulthood.
So far, the program has mentored about 200 young people and its impact is immediately evident in our community. During our public play reading events and festival, the students show exponential growth in their understanding of how plays work. Seeing them react to an audience’s response to their play is gratifying—they learn so much about their work through this process. The thing that excites me the most about being a part of LEAP is bearing witness to the development of the young artist. Students arrive with little or no experience as playwrights, but this program provides them with a very simple and basic process by which to connect with their own creative impulse and a safe and supportive environment in which to do so.
As the years go on, LEAP has begun to create a community of young playwrights that learn from each other, network, and join forces to create their own work. We also have begun connecting young writers with theatre companies looking for new scripts. Some of our students have continued to forge exciting careers as playwrights, going on to study playwriting at NYU or screenwriting at USC. Many more have gone on to study Creative Writing at the university level here in Vancouver. Still others are now established theatre artists in our community.
LEAP deserves support because it is an essential presence in the local theatre culture. It is important that the program continue to be available at no cost to the participant, and for that to remain a reality, ongoing support is crucial. LEAP is filling a need in our community by inspiring a generation of young people to become creators. It not only generates a population of playwrights, but even more essentially, it teaches young people that they are in full control of their work and that they already have the skills and tools to be creative. That is a gift that will stay with them as they flourish into adulthood.