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Volume 26, Number 6 — June 2018

Arts For Youth Spotlight

Jamie Kemble
Jamie Kemble

Jamie Kemple wins honors with play

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | December 27, 2017

Jamie Kemple recently wrote her first play and won top honors in Barter's Young Playwrights Festival.

"Winning Barter's Young Playwrights Festival was surreal. I never expected to win, even when my teacher encouraged me that she believed I had a chance. I never thought anything I made would be good enough. Winning meant so much more to me than glory and money. It made me realize I can do these things, I am good enough and so are my works, and, most importantly, people want to hear what I have to say.

"I'm a quiet person, very non-confrontational and shy, but this play was a look into my own mind. I was scared that it would get tossed aside and that I'd go back to being the quiet girl in the corner no one cared about. Then I saw my play on stage, and I won first place. It has done wonders for my confidence and self-esteem. This was way more than just a competition. For me, it was life changing," Jamie says.

Her play is about two soldiers who are just boys from opposing sides in the Civil War. The Union boy captures the Confederate youth, and as they wait for a patrol to come by, they start talking. They talk about themselves, God, the war, and most importantly, statues.

"This play was not a political statement, nor was it ever intended to be. It was about a point no one on either side of the Civil War statues debate has brought up — the humans behind the statues and the war.

"My approach was simple. I knew the two soldiers had to meet, and I knew there was a time constraint. The reasons came from there, and I just logically thought through what would happen between them. Their backstories came naturally. I looked up a lot of Civil War slang and I listened to songs that I thought related to my characters. I wrote what came to mind and after some slight revisions, mainly misspellings and formatting, I sent it in," she says.

Her prize for winning was an hour-long mentoring session with Justin Tyler Lewis. "He gave me such wonderful insight and tips on playwriting. He was genuinely interested in my work and really wanted to see me continue on this path. He talked to me as if I were a colleague or a peer and listened to my opinions and ideas. His mentoring was absolutely invaluable. Most of the conversation was about how to improve my play and continue with it. He told me himself that he thought the world of my play, which was another amazing confidence boost. I couldn't thank him or the Barter enough," she says.

The Barter Players have encouraged her to expand the play and enter it into the Appalachian Playwrights Festival.

She began writing in elementary school when a teacher gave her class little books to write in.

"I always had an imagination, but as I got older I stopped acting it out and began to write it down," she says.

She writes more stories and poetry than plays, and her favorite topics are fantasy, historical fiction and contemporary.

"Writing this play and receiving the encouragement I did really opened my eyes to the fact that I could do this, and more importantly, people wanted to hear and see my stories in this format. The most interesting thing about playwriting is definitely the way it's presented and the process it goes through.

"There's so much faith and trust in writing a play between the writer, director and actors. You have to trust that the people who receive your work will know what you are trying to say. It's like the writer is mute, but they have something to say; so they write it down and give it to the actors, who in turn say what's been given to them. They could add inflection or improvise, change the meaning of the words, a whole bunch of stuff like that, but as a writer you trust that they won't, or what they do change will help get what you mean across to the audience," Jamie says.

Jamie plans to join the military and then go to college. She is considering majoring in English and becoming a writer. When she isn't in school or writing, she enjoys drawing, painting, reading, riding horses, dancing and learning.

She is a 17-year-old senior at Abingdon High School, Abingdon, Virginia. Her parents are Mike and Jodi Kemple.