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Three Local Teens Win the Palace Theater's Playwriting Award

Three Local Teens Win the Palace Theater's Playwriting Award

Their one-act plays were selected to be brought to life by professional actors as part of the Palace’s virtual fundraiser.  

While the coronavirus lockdown has proved a trying time for many teens, with the cancelation of graduation ceremonies, missing friends, increased anxiety, and a complete change to everyday life, there is good news for three exceptional high school students. Jeison Lenis Lopez (Stamford), Zaida Rio Polanco (White Plains) and Naomi Young (Mamaroneck) have been named the winners of the Palace Theater’s playwriting contest. Their one-act plays were selected to be brought to life by professional actors as part of the Palace’s virtual fundraiser.  

The Ernie DiMattia Emerging Young Artist Awards Fundraiser will take place on Zoom on May 24 (at 4pm). Luis Salgado, a performer, director, choreographer, and producer who has performed on Broadway (In The Heights, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), film, television, and stages around the world, will be joined by other NYC actors for a virtual reading of the three short plays. 

“For the young playwrights to have the experience of working with professional directors and actors either in person or online, it will leave a profound impact,” says Carol Bryan, director of education at The Palace. “Hearing and seeing their words jump from script to stage is a journey unlike anything they have experienced.”

The three young winners say they are thrilled that their plays were chosen. “I really appreciate this opportunity and the encouragement it is giving me and other students to write creatively and submit their work for others to review,” says Young, a junior at Rye Neck High School, who wrote the one-act play "TwentyFour."

Polanco’s play “Waves” is inspired by her love of dystopian stories. “Writing has always allowed me to escape into an alternate reality where my characters become real,” she says. “With the help of songwriting, singing, dancing and acting, I’ve been able to dive into this world of expression where the imaginary is ever tangible.”

Lopez who wrote “Renaissance” is a junior at Stamford High School and the head of production and construction in his school's theater program. He loves all kinds of the arts and dabbles in as much as he can in as many mediums as he can. 

The Palace Theater, which strives to educate and inspire area youth with classes and opportunities in performing, choreography, circus arts, voice and dance, also aims to teach kids that confidence, teamwork and focus are important skills for their development. The Ernie DiMattia Emerging Young Artist Award is given every year to high school students from Fairfield and Westchester counties.

Although the Palace can’t stage live a performance of the three one-acts this year due to Coronavirus restrictions, Bryan believes the virtual experience will have a significant resonance. “In this time of uncertainty, confusion and fear, to be able to offer light, hope and inspiration through the arts is a gift not only for the emerging young artists, but also for the artists who need to continue to create to feed their souls.”

The event is free to the public. (Donors who give $25 or more will receive a Palace T-shirt.) See palacestamford.org for more information. 

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Shana Liebman


Shana Liebman is the features editor of NYMP. She’s a writer and editor who has worked for magazines including New York MagazineSalon, and Travel & Leisure—and she is the mom of two energetic little boys.

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