Teen-age playwright has `fun with fiction'

Writer: A Howard County high school senior who hopes to write screenplays in Hollywood has seen her work performed in Columbia and at Vassar College.

May 06, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

For Latisha Jones, one of the joys of writing plays is to see the people and places of her imagination come to life on stage.

"All these things can happen just because you wrote it." she said. "It's really cool."

Jones, 17, a senior in Long Reach High School's technology magnet program, has seen her work performed in Columbia and at an apprenticeship program at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She wrote her first screenplay this year and is finishing her first documentary film.

She hopes to get to Hollywood someday writing screenplays, but her next step is to pursue her writing in college. So she has also been writing many essays for college applications and scholarship contests.

Jones, who lives with her mother, A'ndrea, in Savage, said she probably will accept an offer from Hampton University in Virginia that includes a good financial aid package.

To be a successful writer, "you've got to be sure of yourself, and [Hampton] is a great place to get a grounding in who I am and what I'm about," she said.

Long Reach drama teacher Cate Barry said Jones is off to a good start in that area. "She is not afraid of anything," Barry said. "She is always looking for ... a new avenue to get to where she wants to go."

In addition, Barry said, "she is able to multitask like you would not believe."

Documentary film

This month, Jones is editing her documentary film about her school's production of The Wizard of Oz for her senior project.

She is also preparing for final exams and looking forward to the finale of the Cappies program, in which students write reviews of student theater productions and vote on year-end awards. She is also planning for the prom, to which she will wear a blue dress matching the bright blue strands of hair woven into her thin black braids.

Jones, who lived in New York until she was 7 years old, credits her second-grade teacher with giving her her first writing assignments: making stories out of lists of spelling words each week.

As a young teen-ager, she fed her love of writing with fan fiction, a type of story often shared on the Internet that is based on characters and events in television shows, comic books or other works. She focused her stories on the television shows Roswell and Dark Angel.

After winning several essay and public-speaking contests as a teen-ager, Jones got her start as a playwright in 2002 with the Try It Out Theater group of Columbia, After she acted in one production, founder Rich Madzel told her she should write a play and the company would put it on.

She wrote Destiny's Advice, about young people making decisions about college and their future. She said the theme was that people have to take control of their lives or destiny will take over. Barry directed, and several of Jones' friends acted in it.

Jones said that experience gave her an important lesson in the power of the playwright. She had to miss the first rehearsal to take a math test upstairs in the school building, but she said she was awed to realize that "those are my words downstairs being spoken, and I don't have to be there."

Vassar program

Jones was one of 11 students nationwide accepted last summer to Vassar College's Powerhouse Summer Theatre apprentice program, where she wrote several short plays and worked on a full-length play that received a reading with actors from the program.

Even though the schedule was intense, she said, she learned that "you're really not doing it for yourself; you do it for the audience. You get the high off the audience's reaction."

She has also learned that writers have to put up with changes and interpretations by directors and actors. She said she tries to put enough "good stuff" in the script so that at least some will be there in the end. Or, she advised, "be happy you always have the original."

She has tried out other genres of writing, including working on her school newspaper and this year with Howard County Government Television.

"I'm trying to learn as much as I can at the moment," she said. But a future in nonfiction is not likely.

"I have too much fun with fiction," she said.

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