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August 30, 2014, 4:18 pm

English assignment turns into winning monologue

Winning student monologues from area high schools will be performed during the 2012 Young Voices High School Monologue Festival, March 28-31, at The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street.

Presented through the on-going partnership of Philadelphia Young Playwrights and InterAct Theater Company, the festival highlights student pieces that range from poignant to light-hearted, and offer a surprising insight into current issues such as addiction, race identity, war and the economy.

This year’s festival received just over 400 entries. The 17 winning monologues were chosen from 13 participating high schools, including Central High School, represented by 11th-grader Einas Hassan from Northeast Philadelphia. Her monologue is titled “It’s More Than Color,” and centers around a young African-American man named Michael who is forced to confront the social stigma of not being “Black enough” in his society.

“My monologue actually started out as an English assignment,” Hassan says. “I never really considered playwriting until I wrote this piece and entered the contest. I originally wanted to be in the medical field but I’m not positive right now.”

It all happened, Hassan explains, because the English teacher, who is also the drama teacher at Central, recommended her students write something and then submit it to the contest. She was also quick to point out that every year someone from Central wins.

And this year was no different, with Hassan and another Central 11th grader winning out over many others.

Hassan explains that her piece started out when she was writing an essay about Martin Luther King, while at the same time thinking of civil rights and the many problems that exist in the African-American community.

“I kept thinking about the fact that even though we have so many rights, we still have many problems to overcome,” the young playwright says. “And even though the things I wrote about never personally happened to me, from my experience I did see many African-Americans who come from poor or lower income backgrounds thinking they won’t be able to succeed in the things they want to do.”

She adds that her original piece was changed a bit when she discussed it with the festival’s director. And it’s changed in her mind as well now that she’s seen it performed by an actor.

“When something is written on paper it seems one way, but that’s not the same as seeing it performed live. The actor doing my monologue is amazing, and the way he does the piece just makes it ten times better,” Hassan concedes. “On paper it seems very formal, but once hearing it acted out, I’ve been able to change a lot of the wording in order to make the dialogue seem more natural and flow better.”

Hassan admits she’s gotten good feedback from friends, family and fellow students. “My parents and older sister couldn’t believe I’d written this and actually won. My sister said it was really good and helped me fix a few things on it to make it even better.”

Founded in 1987, Philadelphia Young Playwrights is an award-winning program that taps the potential of youth and inspires learning through playwriting in more than 50 public and private K-12 schools each year.

And now that Hassan is one of the winners, she admits she might even give writing a thought for her future. And she would definitely advise others to try it as well.

“If you don’t try it, you’ll never know if you could have succeeded,” said Hassan. “It’s a wonderful opportunity not available to many people.”

For more information, call (215) 568-8079.