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Fifth-grade screenwriters got to see their work performed in front of a live audience on Wednesday at the Novo theater at L.A. Live, all for The Biggest Show, the culmination of a semester’s work by the young mentees and their mentors.
Comedy duo/twins Jason and Randy Sklar hosted the evening’s performances. The Young Storytellers got to cast their choice of talent from a pool that featured J.B. Smoove, Molly Shannon, Jermaine Fowler, Tony Hale, Jason Mantzoukas, Max Greenfield, Natasha Rothwell, Jimmi Simpson and Georgia May King.
Shannon told The Hollywood Reporter about the significance of the arts in her own childhood. “I went to a Catholic school. They didn’t have a lot of money, but once a year, they would teach us a dance routine that we would perform on St. Patrick’s Day — it was the highlight of my year,” she said. “It’s really what got me interested in show business and becoming a performer and writer.”
The night’s stories ranged from elephants experiencing existential crises in Jojo and the Great Escape to dancing superheroes in The Chickenpants Plan. The young writers also touched on subjects closer to the current news cycle and popular culture. One performance featured Veep’s Hale as a bird-loving detective and Rothwell as Donald Trump. One of the stories’ writers told the audience how she wanted to humanize people experiencing homelessness with her story, The Great Taffy Escape, in which a trio of siblings being held hostage are saved by a homeless man.
Insecure‘s Rothwell spoke about the importance of children’s voices to THR: “Telling kids that their words matter and are important means everything to me, and I feel now, more than ever, kids need to know that we’re listening and we’re advocating for them.”
The executive director of Young Storytellers, Bill Thompson, agreed. “I think it’s essential for kids across the country who aren’t seeing themselves accurately reflected in the media they’re consuming,” Thompson told THR about the need for programs like Young Storytellers. “[Kids] are so media-saturated right now, [it’s important] for them to understand their voice and their story is valid and unique and a source of power and agency for them.”
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