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Student authors + adult improv actors = 1 funny show (again!)

It’s the place where one goes to the beach at Rocky Mountain National Park, where people from opposite sides of the world swim in pools of jello, and where try as you might, it is near impossible to get to that coveted red velvet cupcake: on March 19 at 2 p.m. at the Dog Story Theatre, the Creative Youth Center (CYC) will host “The Sketches that Lived Encore.”

The CYC is the only creative-writing-focused organization in Grand Rapids, serving students ages 6-18—the CYC fulfills its mission of empowering students’ voices through creative writing workshops, tutoring, and afterschool programs. To learn about a day in CYC programming, click here, and to find out more about the CYC’s writing workshops, click here.

This is the second performance of “The Sketches that Lived,” a show based on and inspired by sketches written by the CYC students and performed by local adult actors during this year’s LaughFest. This free, all-ages performance will feature brand new material written by this year’s students.

Amy Gascon, the director of “The Sketches that Lived” and of the upcoming encore, speaks to the value of having adults perform the work of students. “I’m not sure if it hits them until they’re at the show with the lights and the audience and just this wonderful positive energy surrounding their work,” says Gascon.

While this positive energy comes from the audience and crowd, the actors play a large role in bringing these stories to life while highlighting the students’ voices.

Will Oltman, a returning actor from the first show, says “I am most excited to perform work written by students that is unencumbered by natural restraints that adulthood brings. I get to experience the creativity of youth once more.”

The creativity in youth encompasses a wide spectrum in stories—Gascon notes the variety in the stories the students told in their sketches.

For this performance, students have been working hard on their sketches. One student, Adrian, says the sketch writing process “was a little troubling at first and then it turned into a good time.”

While it might be a little tricky to write sketches, Lis Hatfield, another actor in the upcoming “Sketches,” says “Sketches can be short and silly – you want to try and make things larger than life and kids tend to be awesome at letting their imagination run wild.”

In preparation for the show, the students have learned about writing stage directions, creating setting, and writing dynamic characters. It suffices to say that the students are just as excited, if not more, than the actors.

Zoe, a student in the CYC’s Afterschool Adventure program, knows the thrill she will experience seeing her work performed. “My parents and grandma are so proud of me,” she says. “It is my chance to become a talented writer. This is my dream. And dreams really can come true.”

And the students at the CYC come into programming as talented writers: programming acts to share the vast talents of the students.

“I think the students really feel proud of what they’ve done,” says Gascon.

Some of these sketches will be published in the CYC’s upcoming anthology of the students’ work, The Book of Explosions. This will be the fifth edition, which highlights students flexing their creative muscles in sketch writing as well as other genres. The various books highlighting the students’ work will be available for purchase at the show.

Of the show, fifth grader India promises, “It will be fun and magical!”

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