Bardavon 1869 Opera House (Poughkeepsie, NY)

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  Workshop teacher and students at a writing workshop 

Casey Kurtti working with writers on rewrites as part of Bardavon 1869 Opera House's Young Playwrights Festival. Photo by Kay Churchill

The Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie presents multidisciplinary and multicultural performances by professional touring artists, reaching approximately 108,000 people a year in the upstate New York community. In 1999, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic became a Bardavon subsidiary. Bardavon also provides educational programs, such as an artist residency program for schools and a Young Playwrights Festival for sixth-grade students in Poughkeepsie schools. 

In FY 2005, Bardavon received an NEA Learning in the Arts grant of $22,500 to support the Young Playwrights Festival in 2005/06. The 20-week program emphasizes the processes of playwriting and theatrical production, culminating in a performance of the students's collected work.

In 2005/06, three sixth-grade classes from the Poughkeepsie Middle School, totaling approximately 75 students, participated in the program led by playwright/teaching artist Casey Kurtti. The 42-minute weekly sessions covered the basics of playwriting, including character development, monologues and dialogues, and revision. This year's program also focused on points of view.

The classes also covered the basics of theatrical production, such as lighting, costumes, and directing. A new addition this year was acting technique lessons, led by actress Maggie Low. Eventually, the students wrote their own short plays. The Young Playwrights Festival presented two performances of the students' plays in a staged reading by a professional cast on the Bardavon stage on April 28, 2006. The cast included Leanne Hutchison, Shawn Randall, David Anzuelo, Alicia Frank, and Mtume Gant.

(From the NEA 2005 Annual Report)