Mickey Liebrecht, an Arapahoe High School junior, was one of nine high school students from across the nation who received the 2013 VSA (Very Special Arts) Playwright Discovery Awards.
It meant a weekend of participation in pre-professional activities at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., working with the other students and theater professionals — actors, directors, playwrights — who coached and mentored the young artists as they refined their skills.
The competition encourages high school students to look at their world and address how disability affects lives. The play could be about real or fictional characters. The 2013 recipients were chosen from more than 150 applicants.
Liebrecht’s play, “Broken Bodies,” was one of three selected for a professional stage reading, and a 10-minute excerpt, her Scene Five, was live-streamed from the Millenium Stage on Sept. 1, broadcast on the Kennedy Center website and archived for the future.
“Broken Bodies” focuses on a traditional Southern family, with a controlling mother who wants to schedule deaf Alaine for cochlear implant surgery, which she resists. She reads lips and uses sign language. “Why wouldn’t she want it?” the mother asks. The girl says, “I like the way I am.” (This subject reflects an ongoing debate regarding treatment of deafness.)
“I had been watching ‘Switched at Birth,’” Liebrecht said regarding the inspiration for her play. The award-winning TV series in the first to use deaf and hard-of-hearing actors and scenes shot in American Sign Language.
At the Kennedy Center, “I got to meet real directors and mentors and was told to ‘keep running with it.’ … Seeing it performed onstage, I thought I was daydreaming,” said Liebrecht, who was the youngest playwright there.
VSA, a program of the Kennedy Center, was founded 35 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to provide arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities and increase access to the arts for all.
The AHS student is a longtime member of the Young Voices of Colorado choir, where she learned to read and make music.
She is enrolled in honors and AP courses and will continue to write — a craft she has pursued since fifth grade, when a teacher who recognized a budding talent urged her mother to bribe her if necessary to keep her interested in writing. “I daydreamed a lot,” she recalls.
We will want to watch for her name in lights some day in the future.