Dorset Youth

Dorset 2020 Young Playwrights Digital Awards Ceremony with teaching artist Heidi Armbruster, top left, Artistic Director Dina Janis, top right, and 2020 Young Playwrights winners.

DORSET, Vt. —Dorset Theatre Festival is taking its Art of Storytelling and Playwriting workshops online to students this spring. Building on the success of its first online workshop in fall 2020, the festival is expanding its offerings to reach as many middle and high school students in Vermont as possible and provide support to Vermont teachers.

“This pandemic time has been uniquely suited to introspection and imagination, which are the building blocks of storytelling and play-making,” explained Heidi Armbruster, a New York City-based theater artist who has worked extensively in creating new work, both as a playwright and an actor. Her play “Mrs. Christie” had its world premiere at Dorset in 2019. As a performer, Armbruster’s credits include Broadway, Lincoln Center, and many appearances in film and television, including as the character Michelle on TVLand’s Younger.

The program’s goal, according to Armbruster, is to provide an online interactive course in playwriting for students without creating additional lesson planning for educators. Instructors may schedule a session for a whole class, individual sessions for specific students, or simply use videos from the course in their own lesson plans as they wish.

“In the classroom experiences that I have had so far, the experience of making something together — even in an online format — has created a sense of community, and that has been exciting and healing,” Armbruster said. She and Dorset Theatre Festival are currently in the process of enrolling students and classrooms for the 2021 program, which will continue online.

The online interactive course in playwriting is free. It is a modular master class geared to students from sixth to 12th grades. It builds upon the festival’s successful eight-year collaboration with area schools, putting professional teaching artists, playwrights and professional theatre artists in classrooms at no cost.

“Our stages may be dark, but there is much drama in the world. Now, more than ever, students need to find a safe and creative outlet for their voices,” Dina Janis, Dorset’s artistic director, said. “We are also excited to support Vermont’s dedicated teachers, giving them this free offering to use as part of their classroom teaching during this challenging time.”

Students who participate in the program and complete an original play will be invited to submit to the annual Jean E. Miller Young Playwrights Competition. Submitted plays are then read and judged by leading playwrights from around the country. The winning submissions will be performed in an online community event for students, teachers, and family members in fall 2021.

Interested regional youth, students, teachers, homeschoolers, or schools should email Heidi Armbruster at heidiyp@dorsettheatrefestival.org. For more information, go online to dorsettheatrefestival.org

jim.lowe@timesargus.com / jim.lowe@rutlandherald.com

jim.lowe@timesargus.com / jim.lowe@rutlandherald.com

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