The West Tisbury Young Authors Project: Me and summer theater on the Island

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Jaiden Edelman — Photo courtesy of Annemarie Ralp

By Jaiden Edelman

Recently, Annemarie Ralph launched a young authors project at the West Tisbury School and asked the MVTimes if we would be interested in publishing the works of middle school writers. The Times will, when possible, run these stories in print, and will feature them regularly online. This week, Jaiden Edelman, an eighth grader, writes about his theater experience on the Vineyard.

Summer on Martha’s Vineyard is a fun time for everyone, and it is especially fun when you are a seventh, soon to be eighth, grader. There is no school, and every day has the possibility to become a beach day, or a day to spend time with your friends or your family.

Some of the lesser-known things that go on during the summer are the amazing plays and performances that a group called Island Theater Workshops, ITW, puts on. Many of these are family-friendly and are a great way to see some of the Island’s most devoted amateur actors.

ITW was founded in 1968 by Mary Pane as a summer workshop for children, which is still going today. It is called Children’s Theater, and it is going into its 47th year of wonderful original plays.

Last summer and the summer before, I had the privilege of playing a part in some of the more elaborate productions ITW performed. Last summer, I was Chulalongkorn in “The King and I,” and the summer before that, I was Michael in “Peter Pan.”

Before I started participating in these plays, I had no idea how much work and effort, and even time, every single member of a production had to put in to make a great show. The people who put the most time and effort were the artistic director, Kevin Ryan, and one of the original ITW members, Lee Fierro. They spent almost every waking moment of their summer making sure that the production was a success, and I am in awe of how much they accomplished.

Even though it took a lot of time and effort, the two plays were the highlights of my previous two summers. I got to meet some great new people who love to act just as much as I do, and I formed close bonds with the people I already knew. The best moment of the entire experience, however, was looking out into the crowd, and seeing all of the beaming faces watching me from their seats, their eyes following my every move, practically on the edge of their seats. That is what I think acting is all about: making people feel like they are in the story, along with you and the rest of the cast. With the professional level of lighting, sets, musicians, tech crew, stage managers, and even actors that ITW offered the audience, I don’t think it was very difficult to get pulled into the drama.

Every time a show like this ends, you realize just how much you loved it, and how much you’re going to miss the members of it until you see them next year. Martha’s Vineyard is a very special place to live, and I have realized from participating in these plays that what makes this small Island special isn’t just natural beauty; the specialness also comes from people who live here, and how devoted they are to tasks that will benefit the community. ITW is a perfect representation of this idea. All of the people involved work incredibly hard, and the result is guaranteed to be breathtaking, like the Island itself.