Last night during my daily mindless scroll through Instagram, my attention was suddenly grabbed by a flyer advertising a fundraising performance posted by Max Greenfield (who I know as Schmidt from “New Girl,” but has most recently played Lonnie in “Hoops.”) The performance, featuring Max himself as well as Tony Hale (“Woke”), Jason Mantzoukas (“Close Enough”), Stephanie Beatriz (“Brooklyn 99”) and Oscar Nunez (“Mr. Iglesias”), just to name a few, was featured on Oct. 27, 2020 to support a national nonprofit called Young Storytellers. This organization provides mentors and other resources for young students to cultivate their creative writing skills and utilize the full potential of their imaginations.
Young Storytellers’ annual “Biggest Show” occurred virtually last night, and I had the privilege of finding out not ten minutes before it started. Four student participants of the program were chosen to have professional actors perform their stories. The show opened with remarks from an exciting slew of Hollywood’s creatives, ranging from Danny Pudi (“Mythic Quest, Raven’s Banquet”) to Queen Latifah (“Hollywood”) about their personal connection to their childhood stories. Pudi perfectly conveyed the genuine message of Young Storytellers by stating that “We all need stories to make sense of this world.”
Jason Mantzoukas then took over as the primary host, introducing and interviewing each student writer. My heart truly felt full watching actors who are typically seen in raunchy, exaggerated comedic roles perform in pieces called “Cop Frog” and “Shelly’s Adventure and the Magical Octopus.”
From the moment the broadcast began until the donation goal was reached, Mantzoukas showed an uplifting level of enthusiasm and passion for the students’ work. He and his fellow actors took the words of these four children as seriously as they would for a professionally curated script. I literally jumped out of my chair out of happiness as Jason Mantzoukas excitedly performed the titular role of “Cop Frog,” which 10-year-old writer Jacob Ramirez says was a part written specifically for the actor.
While two of the performances were relatively lighthearted and showed off the actors’ passion for encouraging typical ideas of imagination, student writers Nohemy Palomar and Rebecca Ortiz took a more serious approach.
Palomar’s “Waiting for You to Come Back” was likely the most emotional of the four stories. The piece was a short, but extremely impactful monologue performed by Stephanie Beatriz that described the feelings of a younger sister watching her brother leave for college (which Palomar noted was entirely based on her own experience). While performing, Beatriz brought out serious tears, making a two-minute story pack the emotional punch of a full-length feature film.
What made these stories so memorable and heartwarming were their unique shared perspective; how often is it that we see children’s true voices represented in screenwriting? Regardless of these stories’ perceived critical “quality,” the opportunity to see the world from a child’s point of view keeps us in touch with our own imaginations. This performance reminded me that at the end of the day, most of the actors shown are still children at heart, and it shows in their imaginative and innovative work.
Last night’s show left me feeling inspired to reconnect with my own childlike imagination, which I realize has become overtaken by the formulaic analytical skills necessary for college. Watching some of my biggest idols channel their inner child revitalized my passion for storytelling, which led me to The Michigan Daily in the first place. Young Storytellers’ “Biggest Show” served as a reminder of the power of genuine, unrestricted imagination. Each performance connected current successful actors and creators with the writers who will hopefully take the places of their performers in a few decades.
Daily Arts Writer Emily Blumberg can be reached at email@example.com.