Young Storytellers Foundation http://www.youngstorytellers.com the official website of the Young Storytellers Foundation Wed, 16 Jul 2014 20:39:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Meet Eliana, from Young Storyteller to Award-Winning Playwright! http://www.youngstorytellers.com/meet-eliana-from-young-storyteller-to-award-winning-playwright/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=meet-eliana-from-young-storyteller-to-award-winning-playwright http://www.youngstorytellers.com/meet-eliana-from-young-storyteller-to-award-winning-playwright/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 18:00:06 +0000 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/?p=3961

When I was 9 years old, I wrote a play. 

I was partnered with a professional writer (her name is Merle Goldberg and I still have the letter she presented

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When I was 9 years old, I wrote a play. 

I was partnered with a professional writer (her name is Merle Goldberg and I still have the letter she presented to me at my “opening” along with a copy of the script, signed by all my actors).  My play was an absurdly ambitious epic saga that followed a young girl fighting to save a city – and I vaguely remember that it included an elaborate dream sequence with burning trees of some kind and a massive ocean voyage.  And all this in roughly fifteen pages.  

But, even though I was just a kid, everyone took my work seriously.  I was mentored, nurtured and respected as a young artist with a story to tell.  I got to hear my words performed in front of classmates and parents on our school’s humble cafetorium stage with adult actors who dedicated themselves to my characters.  And I got that opportunity thanks to the Young Storytellers Foundation.

Getting to work with the Young Storytellers Foundation gave me an affirmation, even at such a young age, that the stories that excited me were worth telling – and even more importantly, that my voice mattered enough to be the one that told them.   I am a product of outreach, and I have no doubt that having the chance to work with the Young Storytellers Foundation put me on the path that’s led me to so much opportunity today. 

It’s not often we get to tell our stories.  At 17, I know that mine is only beginning, but I’m so honored to report that I am a two time Young Arts winner in writing for film or stage and a winner in the Blank Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival.  Two of my plays were produced at my arts high school last May, and in September, I will begin at Columbia University in New York City. 

When I follow the breadcrumbs back to source of all this, I always think of the Young Storytellers Foundation, and the way they gave me the power of voice.   I couldn’t be more grateful to the foundation for what they do, and I look forward to seeing how their programs evolve in the future, to introduce even more young people to the arts. 

Watch Eliana perform her winning monologue “Goldfish” at the YoungArts Festival.

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Our programs celebrate the imagination of every child… http://www.youngstorytellers.com/programs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=our-programs-celebrate-the-imagination-of-every-child http://www.youngstorytellers.com/programs/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 17:48:44 +0000 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/?p=386 . . . more]]> . . . more]]> http://www.youngstorytellers.com/programs/feed/ 0 Watch what we do… http://www.youngstorytellers.com/what-we-do/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-we-do http://www.youngstorytellers.com/what-we-do/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 23:15:47 +0000 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/?p=898 . . . more]]> . . . more]]> http://www.youngstorytellers.com/what-we-do/feed/ 0 Book Sale for Young Storytellers! http://www.youngstorytellers.com/book-sale-for-young-storytellers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=book-sale-for-young-storytellers http://www.youngstorytellers.com/book-sale-for-young-storytellers/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 23:32:44 +0000 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/?p=3949 On Friday, May 30, employees from Kinecta Federal Credit Union organized a used book sale to raise funds and awareness for Young Storytellers. Dozens of employees participated in the activities . . . more

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On Friday, May 30, employees from Kinecta Federal Credit Union organized a used book sale to raise funds and awareness for Young Storytellers. Dozens of employees participated in the activities and raised more than $700 for our programs!

Special thanks to Latrice McGlothin and Shannon Hotta for all of their hard work and coordination. They are hoping to make this an annual event…and so are we!

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Highlights from YSF After Dark: Take 3 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/afterdark3/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=afterdark3 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/afterdark3/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 18:30:52 +0000 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/?p=3711 Hosted by the Sklar Brothers and featuring the comic stylings of Andy Daly, David Koechner, Jessica Makinson, Oscar Nuñez,  Matt PriceJanet Varney, . . . more

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Hosted by the Sklar Brothers and featuring the comic stylings of Andy Daly, David Koechner, Jessica Makinson, Oscar Nuñez,  Matt PriceJanet Varney, Casey Wilson, and more!

After Dark: Take 3; a comedy cabaret evening featuring PG-rated plays written by 5th graders, performed by an all-star comedy cast in decidedly un-PG fashion.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 

King King, Hollywood, CA

Click to view slideshow.

Photo credit by Aaron Jettleson

Miss the Show? Watch it here!

 

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Exclusive Video & Signed After Dark Swag For Sale on Cogo TV! http://www.cogo.tv/afterdark?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=watch-after-dark-live-at-8pm-on-cogo-tv http://www.cogo.tv/afterdark#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 19:23:48 +0000 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/?p=3902 . . . more]]> . . . more]]> http://www.cogo.tv/afterdark/feed/ 0 HBO Volunteers win Parsons Community Impact Award! http://www.youngstorytellers.com/hbo-volunteers-win-parsons-community-impact-award/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hbo-volunteers-win-parsons-community-impact-award http://www.youngstorytellers.com/hbo-volunteers-win-parsons-community-impact-award/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 18:02:56 +0000 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/?p=3871 On Tuesday, June 3, members of our HBO Volunteer Team were flown to a reception in New York City to receive the prestigious Richard Parsons Community Impact Award from Time . . . more

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On Tuesday, June 3, members of our HBO Volunteer Team were flown to a reception in New York City to receive the prestigious Richard Parsons Community Impact Award from Time Warner Chairman Jeff Bewkes. The Parsons awards, Bewkes noted, recognizes people that “take the time to make a difference in the communities in which they work and live.”

Richard Parsons Community Impact Team Award

For the past five years, four HBO employees have worked with underserved youth in California through the Young Storytellers Foundation (YSF). YSF helps students improve their literacy and writing skills and encourages them to discover the power of their own voices by writing unique stories that are then brought to life on stage.  Every spring and fall, Preston DeFrancis, Kary Antholis, Jeannie Koenigsberg and Brad Saunders recruit fellow HBO employees to mentor the students through the eight-week program, helping them develop and refine their five-page screenplays in preparation for “The Big Show,” a showcase of the students’ work performed by professional actors. Since HBO began working with YSF, they’ve recruited 42 volunteers, logged 1500 hours and mentored over 120 students.

Preston DeFrancis accepted the award on behalf of our HBO team for their work in our Venice Program Cluster. You can read Preston’s full remarks here. Additionally, read more about the event in this Variety article and watch video highlights below.

Special thanks to YSF Vice-Chair Kary Antholis for his leadership. We are so proud of our HBO volunteers and grateful for the time, commitment, and talent they give to our students each and every year!

 

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YSF Board Member Eric Friedman wins Points of Light Award! http://www.youngstorytellers.com/ysf-board-member-eric-friedman-wins-points-of-light-award/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ysf-board-member-eric-friedman-wins-points-of-light-award http://www.youngstorytellers.com/ysf-board-member-eric-friedman-wins-points-of-light-award/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 18:00:04 +0000 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/?p=3880 On Tuesday, June 3, YSF Board Member and long-time volunteer Eric Friedman was awarded the Points of Light Award at the Billion+Change convening at the LA Chamber of Commerce. The . . . more

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On Tuesday, June 3, YSF Board Member and long-time volunteer Eric Friedman was awarded the Points of Light Award at the Billion+Change convening at the LA Chamber of Commerce. The Points of Light Award celebrates the power of the individual to spark change and improve the world. Winners get formally recognized by Points of Light through a certificate signed by President George H. W. Bush – and a bit of the spotlight.

Eric has been a key volunteer for YSF since 2001 and in that time has mentored 19 different students in our Script to Stage Program! He is the genius behind YSF’s After Dark series and is proud to be a new member of our Board of Directors.

Read more about Eric’s incredible commitment to Young Storytellers in this article from Points of Light. You can also read his full remarks here.

We are so proud of Eric and honored to have him as such a valued member of our Young Storytellers community!

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Parsons Award, Preston DeFrancis http://www.youngstorytellers.com/parsons-award-preston-defrancis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parsons-award-preston-defrancis http://www.youngstorytellers.com/parsons-award-preston-defrancis/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 17:26:23 +0000 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/?p=3868 Jeff, thank you so much. I speak for Team HBO when I say that we are grateful to have your support. The work we do is possible because Time Warner . . . more

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Jeff, thank you so much. I speak for Team HBO when I say that we are grateful to have your support. The work we do is possible because Time Warner is a company that encourages us to give back.

A personal word of thanks to Kary. He’s responsible for introducing HBO to Young Storytellers Foundation after his daughter went through the program at a public school in Los Angeles. Also, my thanks to Brad and Jeannie. They were part of Young Storytellers before I was an HBO employee, and they recruited me. Without them, I wouldn’t have had the amazing experience of working with the students of Westminster Elementary and Mark Twain Middle School.

I also have to acknowledge that we aren’t the only Time Warner employees who are involved with the Foundation. Sam Brown and his colleagues at New Line have played an integral role; and there’s now a team at HBO-New York who have adopted PS 63.

We’ve been working with Young Storytellers for five years now. In that time, we and the mentors we have recruited have reached over 120 students, volunteering more than 1500 hours. Over 40 HBO-LA employees have volunteered. Most of that service has been with the core Young Storytellers program, in which we teach a group of 5th grade students the fundamentals of storytelling through screenwriting. Mentors then work one-on-one with students to write a 5-page screenplay. This culminates in a “Big Show” in which professional actors perform the students’ screenplays in front of the school. We have also helped Young Storytellers to grow by becoming an early adopter of Young Movie Makers, a pilot program for middle school students. This past year, while Brad and Jeannie continued to lead the elementary school program, I visited a sixth grade classroom each week. The students wrote, directed, and starred in six 3-minute films that we screened last month for the students in our theater at HBO-LA.

In my Young Movie Makers class, one student, Daisy Gonzalez, had also been in our Grade School program. Her screenplay was about an aspiring sculptor who wants to make it as an artist so badly, she contemplates destroying the Eiffel Tower and replacing it with a sculpture of her own. In the Young Movie Makers program, Daisy’s group wrote and she starred in a biography of singer Katy Perry. The movie was about how desperately Katy wants to be a pop singer despite her parents’ insistence that she be a religious singer.

As you can tell from the themes she explores in her writing, Daisy is a young woman with artistic ambitions. She told me that her experiences with Young Storytellers were life-changing for her. She had always dreamed of writing and acting, but didn’t have the confidence to do either before our programs gave her an outlet. Now, she tells me, she’s considering two careers that will both require her to perform: Actress or undercover cop. And when I asked the students at the screening which of them planned to make another short movie, Daisy’s hand was the first in the air.

Receiving this award is a great honor. But the best part is that it has helped raise awareness of Young Storytellers throughout HBO. Our programs will continue to thrive with the energy of new volunteers who have heard of the program for the first time because of the Parsons Award. On behalf of all the kids that have been served, and will be served, I thank you.

- Preston DeFrancis, YSF Volunteer

Remarks presented at the Richard Parsons Community Impact Awards, New York City, on Tuesday, June 3, 2014

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Points of Light: Eric Friedman http://www.youngstorytellers.com/points-of-light-eric-friedman/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=points-of-light-eric-friedman http://www.youngstorytellers.com/points-of-light-eric-friedman/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 15:10:31 +0000 http://www.youngstorytellers.com/?p=3860 First off, Thank you so much to Points of Light for choosing me to receive this award. I am truly honored to be honored, and I am humbled to be . . . more

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First off, Thank you so much to Points of Light for choosing me to receive this award. I am truly honored to be honored, and I am humbled to be in the company of so many people who are doing good for the world. I’m not 100% sure I belong in your ranks, but that probably has something to do with the fact that I’m a comedy writer, and therefore have a very low opinion of myself. I’m working on it.

So what does Young Storytellers do? The organization’s motto is “Every Child has a Story Worth Telling,” and our volunteer mentors are committed to helping every kid we work with get that story out. YSF has recently started working with junior high and high school students, but the vast majority of what we do, and the program I have participated in exclusively, is an elementary school program called “Script to Stage.” Every week 10 mentors meet with 10 fourth or fifth grade students at those 40+ arts-poor schools. Each mentor is paired with a student, and over the semester, we teach the kids how to write a story. After 8 weeks, each kid ends up with a 5-7 page “screenplay” that they wrote. Mentors just type and ask questions. But every word is kid-original.

Then on the last day of the semester, we do what’s called a “Big Show’ where the school has an assembly, and all of the kids’ classmates, friends and family come watch as each kids’ screenplays is acted out live on stage by professional actors.

The Big Show is a Big Deal – we roll out a red carpet, all the mentors whip out cameras and start taking pictures of our kid VIP’s like we’re paparazzi, and best of all, each kid gets to sit with their mentor in a special chair front and center as his/her screenplay is acted out, and everyone gets to watch them watch their words come to life. If you’ve never been to a Big Show, I highly recommend checking one out. I can score you some tickets. They are magical. They are life-changing events for these kids. And they’re funnier than just about any show on TV, including any show I’ve ever written for.

I want to share with you what being a volunteer with Young Storytellers has meant to me. I’ve been a writer for pretty much my entire adult life. And I use the term “adult” very loosely. I think that phase of my life only started this morning, when I had to put on this jacket and slacks, or as I like to call it, big boy clothes.

While I feel very fortunate to be a so-called grown-up who gets paid to tell stories and write jokes all day long, one of my regrets in life is that I didn’t discover my love of writing when I was a child. I wrote a little in school, and I remember enjoying it. But my passion for writing was not nurtured. Writing was never presented to me as something one could “do.” Certainly not something one could make a living at. Fortunately for me, I moved to New York in my 20’s and developed close friendships with a group of comedians and writers. Only then did I actually start to “pursue my writing.” If I hadn’t met those people, I don’t know if I’d have ever discovered that writing is my passion.

And so 13 years ago, when I heard about a program where I could help kids learn how to write, help them discover the power of their own voice, maybe even help them find their passion, I jumped at the chance to be a mentor, and I was instantly hooked. For that one hour every Tuesday, I felt ALIVE! Being around those eager, enthusiastic, creative kids was the single greatest thing I did all week. And sure, you could say, “Eric, you were unemployed. It was the only thing you did all week.” And you’d be correct. But let’s talk about that for a second…

Volunteering one’s time is rewarding for anyone, but in my opinion it’s even more rewarding for people who don’t have a steady job to go to every day. Quote unquote “creatives,” who have more free time in their lives than they’d like, and often less purpose in their lives than they’d like. That’s definitely how I felt when I got involved with Young Storytellers. As an unemployed writer, I had no certainties in my schedule. No stability. But knowing there was one hour every week when I was going to make a difference to someone, and actually have a purpose in this world – that was a gift. And that’s why I kept re-upping as a mentor, semester after semester, after semester.

Over the past 13 years, I have mentored 19 times. I’ve been fortunate enough to be much less unemployed these days, so I haven’t been able to spend as much time working one-on-one with the kids, but I’ve found other ways give back. I joined the YSF board. I plan an annual benefit called YSF After Dark where I bring together some of the biggest comedians in Los Angeles to do a star-studded Big Show in a Hollywood night club. And as a creator and executive producer of my own show on Disney XD, I’ve been able to surprise our Disney sponsored school in Burbank by bringing the entire cast of my show to perform in their Big Show. Have you ever gotten to see a group of kids meeting the stars of a Disney show in person? If you do, my advice is get out of the way, because they WILL trample you to get an autograph. It was like The Beatles showed up. If any of these kids had ever heard of The Beatles. It was awesome.

To close, I’d like to talk for just a moment about the kids. Over the course of my years volunteering with Young Storytellers, I’ve had the privilege of working with, and being inspired by, some phenomenal children. I’ve gotten to watch a little girl named Sammy stand up at her Big Show in front of her entire school and say, “Before I started Young Storytellers I was shy, but now I have confidence and I believe in myself.” I’ve gotten to see a humongous smile spread across a boy’s face when I handed him the printed out version of the script we’d been working on for weeks, and he looked at the title page and saw the words “Toy Chest Madness” by David Monterrroso.

But selfishly, what I’ve gotten the biggest kick out of, is that every single kid I’ve worked with completely lacks the self-edit button that us older, more jaded writers have. They don’t judge what comes out of their brains and mouths and onto the page. They just let it pour forth, without hating their words, or themselves, unaware of what a gift that is. That’s how I’ve gotten to hear stories like “Toy Chest Madness” where a toy octopus battles for freedom one tentacle at a time, or “Anti-Rodney vs. Rodney” about an evil robot named Rodney whose plan to take over the world is foiled by his slightly less-evil clone. Sorry, should have said, “spoiler alert.”

I remember working with a girl one semester, and she was telling me what to write next in her script, and she said, “Maria was down the tunnel.” And I was confused, because there was no tunnel in her story. And so I asked her what she meant, and she said “Maria is sad. She’s down the tunnel.” And I was like, “Of course. That makes perfect sense. I would NEVER EVER EVER have thought of putting it that way, but I am so glad your brain came up with that.”

And that pretty much sums up why I love working with Young Storytellers. Because when I’m working with those kids, I never ever ever feel like I’m down the tunnel.

- Eric Friedman, YSF Mentor and Board Member

Speech presented at Points of Light Awards Ceremony at Billion+Change Convening, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, June 3, 2014

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