Brooklyn playwright Allison Benko comes to ESBR

Allison Benko, a playwright and director, will be mentoring students at ESBR. Photo provided

LUDLOW, Vt. – As part of the Expeditionary School at Black River’s theater program, students have been working with Broadway actor Susan Haefner to write and perform “We Are Nature,” a play celebrating the diversity of nature and the dependency of human life on it. In the most recent addition to this program, the school will be partnering with playwright and director Allison Benko to write ten-minute plays for the Weston Playhouse Theater Company’s Spring Playwrights Project. The students will be working with Ms. Benko virtually this March to learn about writing plays, developing characters, and creating a script in a professional format.

Ms. Benko, who is based in Brooklyn, NY has worked with students around the world to hone their playingwriting, acting, and directing skills in a creative and professional environment. “As a classroom teaching artist,” states Ms. Benko, “I’ve worked with students of all grade levels in many areas of theatre: playwriting in Vermont, dramatic interpretation in Shanghai, and one-on-one lessons in Elizabethan theater history on-line.” Ms. Benko has also worked with many professional playwrights as a mentor and co-author. “I am passionate about mentorship,” she says, “and I’m always excited to meet with young directors.”

The students at ESBR are looking forward to working with the professional playwright. Damian Foley, a ninth grade student who will be participating in the Weston Spring Playwrights Project, is especially enthusiastic about the opportunity to improve his playing writing and acting skills. “I’ve never written a full play before,” he said, “and it will be beneficial to have a professional’s input on my work.” Damian aspires to be a professional actor, and he is eagerly anticipating him showing his acting skills in both the Weston Playwrights Project and “We Are Nature.” He enjoys practicing improvisation at ESBR, and hopes Ms. Benko will help him establish a more fixed, chronological order to his improvisation-inspired scenes, his ten-minute play, and the school’s “We Are Nature” project.

Susan Haefner is also delighted to get to work with Ms. Benko. “Allison is such a kind person,” Ms. Haefner noted during a video call. Ms. Benko and Ms. Haefner have worked together in the past through the Spring Playwrights Project (then known as the Young Playwrights Festival). “I really love Allison’s approach to playwriting and how she works with the students,” said Ms. Haefner, who herself has been writing her own musical. She is overjoyed about collaborating with her colleague through this project. “I’m thrilled to bring Weston Playhouse, ESBR, and Allison together,” Ms. Haefner said. “I believe that Allison will bring a whole new light to our “We Are Nature” project, and I’m delighted to bring new artists and playwrights into the fold. Allison’s gonna tell us how to do it!” Ms. Haefner added, laughing.

For more information, please contact Kendra RIckerby via email at krickerby@esblackriver.org or visit our website at www.esblackriver.org.

Written by Lorien Strange, student at ESBR.

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