NEW HAVEN – Long Wharf Theatre wrestles with big ideas, both on its stages and through its education programs. A great example of the theatre’s impact can be found through the Fourth Annual Moments & Minutes Festival, an evening of student created work.

The Festival will take place Friday, April 27 on Stage II at 7 pm. “Moments & Minutes is a chance for kids to literally grab the microphone, to boldly tell their peers, teachers, and community members what they think. They have real wants and needs that they don’t always have outlets to express,” said Eliza Orleans, education programs manager.

For the past four years, the Education department has posed a question inspired by the season’s themes and invited students in grades K-12 to respond by writing poems, raps, monologues, or other performance pieces. This year students were invited to reflect on what it means to truly be seen and to see others. “Now more than ever it is important to learn how to break through barriers and celebrate the beauty and complexity within ourselves and those around us,” said Madelyn Newman, Long Wharf Theatre’s education director.

Over 80 students from all over the state submitted original pieces for consideration. A small group is then selected through an audition process to perform as part of the festival.  “It never ceases to amaze me how in tune their observations are to what is happening around them, and how innovative their solutions often are,” Newman said.

The students’ work runs the full gamut of emotions – the young artists bravely take on the issues of discrimination, sexism, and violence. They offer solutions to these problems. The young writer-performers also offer vulnerable glimpses into their own psyches.

Kiyomi Bowen, a junior at Metropolitan Business Academy, ponders the nature of attention. “When I can admire you in the most platonic way, and not have my pride get the best of me I know that I am seen. When there is not a worry that I’m embarrassing myself or over sharing, I know that I am seen,” Bowen wrote.

Madelyn Mathews, a senior at Hamden High School, explored the difference between a curated and edited photograph and what is reflected when you look in the mirror. “Baring what’s inside is the only way to fully see yourself and to let others see you. It is often far scarier to allow yourself to gaze upon your own face in a mirror than it is to have others look you in the eye. Is a life hidden a life well lived? It’s your choice. Do not tether your soul to the photo, but find yourself within it. Step through the mirror and find yourself on the other side living in your own reflection,” she wrote.

Bryce Mckenzie, an eighth grader at Davis Street Magnet School, looks at herself through the prism of how she believes the people around her see her. “My friends see me as a funny, weird girl who’s always laughing and telling jokes. My parents see me as a beautiful smart girl who keeps her head up even when things are going bad. I see myself as an awesome girl who loves Broadway musicals. I see myself performing on stage. I see myself with a bright future,” Mckenzie wrote.

Because of the breadth and depth of the students’ engagement, The Moments & Minutes Festival is a high point during the Long Wharf Theatre season. “Their performances cry out for a better world that we all need to take an active part in creating,” Newman said. “Moments & Minutes is one of those experiences that remind me why I started working in theatre in the first place,” Orleans said.

The participants include Talya Braverman (Amity High School); Gabriella Matteis, Kendall Evans, Lauren Wiedeman, Madelyn Roche, Matthew Romo, Sofia Carrillo (Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School); Erick Alvarez, Jendaia Stevens, MacKenzie Atkins (Capital Prep Harbor); Bryce Mckenzie (Davis Street Magnet School); Devon Shafer, Phuangthao Hoang (Hall High School); Madelyn Mathews (Hamden High School); Emma Kathryn (Hillcrest Middle School); and Kiyomi Bowen (Metropolitan Business Academy.)

For more information or to reserve tickets, visit longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.