Festival of Shorts brings out the best in Horizon Youth Theatre

Clara Burkin, left. and Ligaya Edge perform in "Stigma."


BG Independent News

Those who want to know what the Horizon Youth Theatre is all about need only make their way to the Otsego Elementary School this weekend.

The youth troupe is staging its annual Festival of Shorts Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Everything is the work of the kids, 7-17. They wrote the scripts and act them out, and with one exception students are directing. This is where Horizon’s mission to educate young people in all aspects of theater shines.

The goal, said Cassie Greenlee, artistic director of the troupe, is for students to learn “about every step of what’s required to put on theatre.”

Lola Truman, left, plays Audrey’s (Katlyn Valantine) inner voice of anxiety in “Mountains.”

“What I love about this year is that for the first time every single thing was created by students. That’s really impressive and something that I’m really proud of. It’s more for them to hang their hats on.”

The program includes six plays, four written by students and the fifth created collaboratively by youngsters in the Devising Class taught by Keith Guion, who directs. Four of the plays will be staged during each performance.

Admission is free, but donations are requested.

Scarlet Frishman, a 17-year-old junior from the Toledo School for the Arts, and Terra Sloane, a 15-year-old freshman from Bowling Green High, are among the student directors.

This is Frishman’s third time directing. “I wanted to direct in the first place because of the biggest influence in my life outside of my immediate family has been Cassie Greenlee.”

They first worked together in 2009, when both were new to the company. “Who I am as a person is completely different because of who she is,” Frishman said, “and I really want to be that influence on another young person’s life because it was extremely valuable for me.”

She’s set her sights on studying theatre at Yale University.

Sloane has also directed before. “It helps me as an actor,” she said of directing. “I see so much more now because I’ve been a director. It helps me perform better.”

She’s also looking to studying education and theatre. “I love working with children. I love seeing things come together.”

The scripts were written last fall as part of an HYT program. The 10 plays then were reviewed by Greenlee and a couple other adults for originality and how feasible they were to be staged.

The young directors got the most say, though, said Greenlee.  They were given the scripts and asked to rank them in order of how interested they were in directing them.

Sloane and Frishman each selected the same play, “Mountains” by Sophi Hachtel and Anne Weaver, as their top choice.

“The thing we really liked about it,” Frishman said, “is the message is beautiful and something young kids need to hear. It deals with bullying and schools and anxiety. The main character Audrey has a physical representation of her anxiety on stage with her the whole time.”

Selecting wasn’t easy, though. All the scripts were “fantastic,” she said, and they would have been happy to direct any of their top three choices.

Sloane is also one of the playwrights. This festival will include her “Poppy Meadow,” written with Alexandra Roberts-Zibbel. This is the fourth script she has written.

Roberts-Zibbel said the play was inspired by a strange dream she had about an abandoned bookstore. This got her thinking about how her parents, John and Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel, who worked together at Grounds for Thought, met.

She was happy to be paired with Sloane to write the script. She said Horizon gives her a chance to work with students who are older than she is.

She’s also acting in the devised production, “Stigma.”

“I like that I can be myself,” she said of her participation in Horizon. “I feel like I belong here.

“It’s fun turning into a different person,” she said. “From acting I get to discover different parts of myself.”

In “Stigma,” she plays Jade, a character who prides herself on being evil. “Jade is me as a villain … I think.”

Sloane said she’d love to direct a play she’s written.

“I won’t let them,” Greenlee said. “There’s something valuable seeing your work brought to life by someone else because they’ll bring something to it you didn’t see.”

(Click for full program and cast lists.)