Chandler student’s play wins national recognition - East Valley Tribune: Chandler

Chandler student’s play wins national recognition

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Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 9:15 am

“Nerdy Nate and the Anti-Bullying Quest” is the story of Nate and Fred, who must save Prince Mirrorgaze from Master Bully in a tale of self confidence overcoming bullying.

The play was written by Chandler’s Michael Ford, a seventh-grader at Basis Charter School.

Ford’s play won Young Playwrights for Change – a nationwide playwriting competition sponsored by The American Alliance for Theatre and Education and Theatre for Young Audiences USA.

“Nerdy Nate and the Anti-Bullying Quest” was the winner of the Childsplay and Rising Youth Theatre’s local competition, and was submitted to the national contest alongside 19 other regional entries from across the country. Ford’s play was selected as the winning script by a panel of nationally recognized writers and theater artists, including Paula Donnelly, Gary Garrison, Marty Johnson, Aba S. Kumi, Louis Sachar and Mary Hall Surface.

“I am completely excited. I half don’t believe it,” Ford said. “I’ve won nothing like this before.”

Ford’s play will be presented in a staged reading by up to four professional actors and a director at The Kennedy Center for their New Visions, New Voices festival on May 16 in Washington, D.C.

Ford always enjoyed writing and acting, “so playing writing is a good combination,” Ford said.

He created his first play as a fourth-grader for a class talent show and another this past fall through a Childsplay conservatory.

Childsplay and Rising Youth Theater, with support from the Theatre for Youth program at Arizona State University, partnered last year to participate in Young Playwrights for Change. The project looked to harness the creativity of young playwrights to produce meaningful conversations about the topic of bullying throughout classrooms, schools and communities across the country.

The topic also hit a bit close to home for Ford, who said he hasn’t always been treated the nicest by other kids.

“I used to get teased about my appearance or called a baby because I play with Pokémon cards — ‘I thought only babies played Pokémon,’” Ford said. “I suppose some of that came out in my play.”

Ford’s play opens with Nerdy Nate “sorting trading cards of some sort” before he and his best friend, Fred, set off to rescue the prince and teacher from the bully using the Sword of Confidence.

“Confidence in yourself is the only way to defeat the Bully,” turns out to be a useful bit of wisdom the teacher bestows on Nate midway through the play.

Nate is not intimidated when he comes face to face with the bully and eventually defeats him by winning a dance battle.

“Michael approached the topic of bullying in a most creative and artistic way,” said Childsplay Playwright-In-Residence Dwayne Hartford, who led the workshop in which Ford created his winning script and whom Ford credited for helping develop the final version. “The play isn’t a diatribe about the evils of bullying; rather it is a fantastical story whose themes are expressed in a clever and very original way. Michael understands the power of story.”

Ford’s parents, David and Susan, broke the news that he had won the competition with a bunch of balloons and a “You’re Going to Washington” sign. But Ford already knew that.

“I have a class trip planned for next month,” he said. “I was just, ‘Oh, OK.’ Then I read the card and it said something about playwright.”

Ford freaked out a little then, knowing what it meant.

“I really like play writing,” he said. “I think being a writer would be a great profession for me.”

Five other middle school students were named semifinalists in the regional competition and will be recognized from the stage at Childsplay’s opening night performance of Schoolhouse Rock Live! on Saturday, April 26. Those playwrights are: Paul Cassidy (seventh-grader, St. Francis Xavier), Tula Henrie (eighth-grader, Poston Jr. High), Lyric Jackson (seventh-grader, Desert Star), Joy Noble (seventh-grader, Poston Jr. High) and Caitlynn Palmer (eighth-grader, Ward Traditional Academy).

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