It takes a lot of creativity and effort to write a play, never mind if your deadline is one week. Never mind if you’re just 8 to 14 years old and have never attempted to write a play before.
“It’s a little hard to do,” Kate Morris, said Yes Fest camp director.
Yes Fest is a new addition to the ZACC’s summer camp offerings, replacing an acting skills class from last year. A ZACC supporter came up with the idea of camp attendees writing plays that would be performed at the end of the week by well-known community members.
“It’s a really cool way to have great, imaginative things come to life,” Morris said. “This is a very special event.”
In Morris’ eyes, the most special part of the camp is helping her kids open up while writing their plays. The title of the camp references the improvisation theory of “Yes, and” — which teaches performers to be open to wherever the story goes next.
Morris, a playwright herself, teaches this to her campers, allowing them to use their imaginations and turn maybe a scary dream into a play, taking ownership of their fear.
“Every kid has great and brilliant ideas every single second,” Morris said. “It also helps them open up. There’s some really shy kiddos.”
The “Yes, and” ideology translates well to the theater, Morris said, where her kids can brainstorm ideas and build on them without someone telling them no. It builds confidence.
The children are grouped into three teams of five campers, who write one play apiece. Another play is written by the whole camp.
Morris helps with script revisions, and the campers get access to the ZACC’s art resources to build their own sets and costumes.
“Some of our campers don’t write,” Morris added. “They have been drawing up a storm.
“Freeing our campers’ imaginations is one of the missions of the ZACC.”
The performance on Friday, to be held at Hellgate High School, will feature the four plays performed by Missoulians like Mayor John Engen, Roxy Executive Director Mike Steinberg and actor Kendra Potter (who recently performed in the acclaimed “Buffalo Play”).
Each play should end up around 10 minutes in length, and will be introduced by attendees of the ZACC’s comedy camp.
Having adults perform these plays will draw attention to, and give some more legitimacy to, the children’s writing, Morris said, “because they are believed in.”
Plus, “the plays will probably be a little bit more clear if adults perform them,” Morris said. “We’re dealing with some highly absurd and fantastical theater.”