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The Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood was filled Saturday night with actors as well as film and television screenwriters on hand to support WriteGirl, a nonprofit that mentors young female writers through a series of workshops. The 2017 Lights, Camera, WriteGirl! benefit paired professional actors with teens to perform scripts that members of the WriteGirl program wrote the same day under the guidance of professional screenwriters.
“I really love seeing the actors bring the scripts the girls wrote [to life], and to see the faces of the girls who see their writing come to life. That’s truly an exceptional experience: to see their words were powerful enough to move an audience,” said WriteGirl founder and executive director Keren Taylor. “It’s one thing to put it on a page, but for our girls to have this experience seeing it come off the page and hearing the audience’s reaction — it elevates her work, and it connects her in a deep way to the entertainment industry, which is all around us here in L.A.”
WriteGirl started in 2001 with only 30 girls in the program. Sixteen years later, the creative writing and mentoring organization has grown, with hundreds of participants and satellite programs, and boasts 100 percent college acceptance rate among its graduates.
More than 30 WriteGirl members, ages 13 to 18, attended the annual benefit, which showcased over 20 monologues and short skits with scenes centered on topics from awkward first dates to a robot falling in love with a human, and even deportation.
Keiko Agena, of 13 Reasons Why, is a frequent participant in the annual event: “This is my third year,” she told THR. “Something [this organization] does extremely well is their college acceptance rates. They make sure that all of their girls that are in their program get accepted into colleges.”
Former WriteGirl Jeanine Daniels is one of those who benefited from that focus. “I wasn’t considering going to college, it wasn’t a primary objective, but WriteGirl made it a primary objective,” she said. “The program has done so much for me. It gave me a voice.”
Daniels, a Pitzer College graduate, was one of the guest screenwriter panelists during the 90-minute show. “The program cares about you and your success,” she explained. “They check up on you even after you leave and also offer to help and make sure you’re good.”
Actor and first-time participant Hayden Szeto, who broke out in The Edge of Seventeen, explained that although this is his first year at the event, he shares many things in common with the local teens. “This was my first time being here. It was a lot of fun; it was like a cold reading class for me,” he said. “It was exhilarating.”
He continued: “There is a voice that is often not heard, not seen or not represented, and in many ways that resonates with me. I felt invisible before. WriteGirl empowers these girls to write and express themselves and that’s why we need to show up.”
Following the performances, which ended with a standing ovation, The Goldbergs star Wendi McLendon-Covey explained why the arts are so vital to success in all arenas. “You get the best ideas from well-rounded people so if you are able to cultivate that side of yourself it helps you solve problems creatively, it helps you become a more empathetic person,” she said. “It just makes your life more well-rounded. It gives you something to live for.”
The evening, which included a silent auction and a raffle, raised over $20,000 dollars.
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