LIVINGSTON, NJ - Heritage Middle School students in are being encouraged to create original one-act plays for a playwriting contest that is being offered via Apricot Sky Productions, in collaboration with Heritage’s Enrichment program. Apricot Sky, the brainchild of Livingston resident Eric Alter, the company’s founder and playwright, is based in Essex County.

No playwriting experience is necessary; all that is required is a desire and willingness to express oneself. The winning writer will receive a $1,000 cash prize to be used for higher education.

Alter and members of Apricot Sky will read submissions, which are due by June 8, and then bring the new play to life on the Heritage stage.

“The world is looking for great stories,” Alter told students who attended an information session on Jan. 21. “What’s your story about?”

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"I want to make sure the students, their families and friends get a chance to see the wonderful story the winning student has created on the stage," Alter added. "Anything is possible with theater, it lends itself to the imagination in ways no other art form does.”
 
Alter is a screenwriter, playwright and poet. His plays have been performed locally at the Grove Street Theatre in Montclair, New York City and around the world as far as China and New Zealand. He founded his theater company back in 1999 and has been putting on plays ever since. His company puts on original plays, most recently, performing a charity show of one-act plays for the Human Needs Pantry in Montclair.  In 2011, Alter wrote and produced an evening of original one-acts dedicated to the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 with donations going to the National September 11th Museum and Memorial. 

"Giving back to the community is important to who I am and what Apricot Sky is all about," Alter said.  

His plays have also been also published in magazines and textbooks including “The Bully of Barksdale Street,” in the Glencoe Literature Reading with a Purpose and PLAYS! The Drama Magazine for Young People.

Alter, who moved to Livingston last year, worked in conjunction with Mary Oates, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, and Lenore Argen, Enrichment/Intervention Specialist at Heritage, to make this program happen. 

"I can't thank them enough, especially Mrs. Argen, who has been incredibly helpful and excited about this project—it is really Mrs. Argen who deserves so much credit for this,” he said.
 
Alter is also the director of the private Deron School in Montclair for students with disabilities, a school founded by his parents 48 years ago. 

At Heritage, Alter’s education experience was apparent as he led middle schoolers in class through the basics of playwriting. 

"The students caught on easily, and were asking some amazing questions and had such great insight.” He said. “I can't wait to see the stories they come up with.”

One thing is for sure—come the deadline of June 8, there are going to be a lot of creative works to be read by Alter and his theater company. Alter is hoping word will spread around the school and that many students will submit their great ideas. Who knows, maybe the next Shakespeare is waiting in the wings at Heritage Middle School?