Monday, August 18, 2008

VSA arts premieres winning playwright's work Sept. 25 at Kennedy Center

VSA arts presents the world premiere of The Other Room at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 25 at the Kennedy Center. Written by 17-year-old Ariadne Baker-Dunn of Interlochen, Mich., (pictured left) this play was selected as the winner of the 24th annual VSA arts Playwright Discovery Program, which invites students to write a one-act play about disability.

The award is one of several VSA arts literary programs that encourage middle and high school students to explore disability through creative writing projects. This performance, hosted by television and film star William Devane, also showcases poetry from additional VSA arts literary programs.

In The Other Room, sixteen-year-old Austin is fascinated by calculus and aircraft. One day he has a chance encounter with fellow classmate Lily. Austin, who has autism, struggles to communicate his inner thoughts and emotions, which are revealed to the audience through four unique characters.

"It is important to encourage creative writing in the schools and cultivate students' interest in the arts," said Soula Antoniou, president of VSA arts. "The Playwright Discovery Program does both. It also provides the opportunity of a lifetime to a young person -- the chance to see his or her play produced at the nation's cultural center."

Now in its 24th year, the Playwright Discovery Program encourages students of all abilities to reflect on how disability touches their lives or the lives around them. The winner travels to Washington, D.C., to view a professional production of their play at the Kennedy Center and receives a $2,000 cash stipend. The poetry that will be performed during the evening comes from the Writing Project, which challenges young writers, ages 11-18, who are living with a disability or connected to someone with a disability, to explore their world from different points of view through the art of writing.

A recent graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy, Baker-Dunn is entering her freshman year at Fordham University in New York, where she will study acting and playwriting. She has completed a full-length screenplay as well as several short plays, one of which, DUST, won a National Gold Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Baker-Dunn chose to address autism in her play because "many people focus on the behavioral anomalies of those with autism, without ever stopping to wonder how the person's mind works."

Tickets for the evening are free with reservation at or call (202) 628-2800. The Kennedy Center is located at 2700 F St., N.W.

VSA arts is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1974 by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to create a society where people with disabilities learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts. VSA arts provides educators, parents, and artists with resources and the tools to support arts programming in schools and communities. VSA arts showcases the accomplishments of artists with disabilities and promotes increased access to the arts for people with disabilities. Each year millions of people participate in VSA arts programs through a nationwide network of affiliates and in more than 60 countries around the world. VSA arts is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.