by MaKenzie Free
It is the time of year when elementary students around Northeast Arkansas become playwrights and Williams Baptist University students bring those stories to life.
Every year, elementary students submit stories to the Story Store, which is an annual production produced in conjunction with Williams Baptist University and the Northeast Arkansas Educational Co-op.
Gifted and Talented students from around the region submit their stories to Melinda Williams, assistant professor of communications arts and director of liberal arts at WBU, and Williams combines their submissions into a play.
Maggie Morgan of Mammoth Spring, Ark., has been in the Story Store cast for the past three years. “I love how much fun I get to have. I have played the same character three years in a row. It is like my character is a continual part of my life. This show is honestly the highlight of my school year,” Morgan said.
The Story Store is not your typical production, in the sense that students from years past whose stories were picked in the early years are still impacted by the Story Store. Robin Harper of Powhatan, Ark., plays the character on Monika, and was interested in being part of the show, noting, “My brother’s story was selected in the early years of the Story Store and I was interested in practicing my performing skills.”
Williams has been writing and directing the Story Store since it began, and she notices that the content has changed over the years. “I would say over the past 5 years, the majority of the stories involve bullying,” she said.
The Story Store confronts serious topics that children write about in a lighthearted way. This year, the students were asked to write about fear. “There were a lot of stories submitted where characters were afraid to be themselves,” Williams noted.
“We want to encourage children to express their feelings in a safe environment,” Williams said. “The Story Store is a place where students won’t be singled out to discuss what they wrote. I hope it rewards students for utilizing their creativity.”
The performance will be staged for local school children Wednesday, February 6, at the Walnut Ridge Community Center.
Williams is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.