2013 New Short Play Fest

High school students rehearse for "2013 Short Play Fest" taking place August 10 and 17 at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale. This is a rehearsal for "Family Therapy" by Kneaku Productions and written by Shaneka Williams of Dillard High School. "Family Therapy" will be staged Saturday, Aug. 17 at ArtServe. (Puppet Network / August 9, 2013)

When high school students in Broward County were asked for original plays for the inaugural 2013 New Short Play Fest, no one had any idea what kind of submissions might come in.

“We asked them to present a couple of pages of what kind of shows they wanted to do,” explains Jim Hammond, the producer who initiated the project through a program called Broward ARTrepreneurs. “Some of the kids were very practical, but most the kids wanted grand spectacle. One wanted a 20-foot tree on the stage. That was one of the coolest kids I ever met.”

The playlets were so good that instead of one evening performance at ArtServe in the Fort Lauderdale Branch Library, the event was divided into two shows. The first is tonight with three short plays by students from Dillard High School and Coral Springs Charter School.

Three more playlets will be shown at the same location Saturday, Aug. 17, with works by students from South Broward High School, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Dillard High School.


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Design and tech teams for both performances are from Fort Lauderdale High School and Miami Beach Senior High.

Hammond is also managing director of Puppet Network, founder of the South Florida Day of the Dead Celebration and president of the Fort Lauderdale Scenic Studio.

“He’s a theater guy but he’s so much more that that,” says Jaye Abbate, CEO and president of ArtServe. “He got this idea for a summer mentoring program. Part of [his aim was] also to talk to that next generation artist, especially with all the schools cutting back on art and art appreciation and theater. The students meet him and he’s this fun cool guy…and now some of them are now thinking, ‘I would love my own theater company when I graduate.’ “

The Broward ARTrepreneur program, which gives students practical experience in theater from business/promotion to production/playwriting, received additional grants from the Broward County Cultural Division and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Hammond says two of the plays tonight – “Girl” and “The Hare’s Bride” – “deal with issues incorporating art as therapy,” the former dealing with bipolarism and the latter with abuse.

“The Curse” opens the evening and deals with “ancient planetary gods,” says Hammond. “There are explosions and objects that float across the stage. It has a real mythical component.”

2013 New Short Play Fest is at ArtServe, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Curtain is at 8:30 p.m. (doors open for first come, first seated at 7:55 p.m.). The event is free. Contact: 954-462-8190 or ArtServe.org.