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His World's A Stage

Featured Photo from His World's A Stage

Plenty of area high schools put on fabulous plays, but this one was actually written by a classmate. Meet Crooms Academy playwright Cooper Valentine.

Cooper Valentine has had a penchant for writing since he was in elementary school. As a little boy, Cooper crafted homemade picture books that he stapled together and proudly shared with his family. He then began filling composition books with his hand-written novels. Now, the 16-year-old is a budding playwright who yearns for a creative writing career.

“I love storytelling in every form,” says Cooper, a rising senior at Crooms Academy of Information Technology. “Writing is a way for you to communicate with the world.”

In May, the school’s drama club produced a play written entirely by Cooper, titled Murder in the Subconscious Mind. Cooper, who joined the club during his sophomore year, labored over his script for many months. In all, the teen wrote four drafts of the play, a drama with comedic elements.

The plot revolves around a struggling writer who finds himself trapped in a classic murder mystery tale with famous authors from the past and present, including Stephen King and Agatha Christie.

Dr. Sarah Jensen, the drama club’s sponsor, was impressed by Cooper’s debut as a playwright and the maturity of his writing.
“He has a tremendous amount of talent,” Dr. Jensen says. “His play was really good, way beyond what I’d expect a high-school junior to be able to put together. It was funny; it was subtle.”

But it was also too long, initially clocking in at what would have been a four-hour run time. So, Dr. Jensen and Cooper cut big chunks of the script, whittling it down to a more manageable two-and-a-half hours.

It was still quite an undertaking for the cast and crew, considering that Crooms doesn’t have a formal drama department or offer even an introductory theater class.

The drama club, which was formed four years ago, has produced three student-written shows, including Cooper’s. Everything from rehearsing to painting sets to fundraising is done on the students’ own time as an extracurricular activity.

“Somehow, we pull these things off. It’s pretty incredible,” says  Dr. Jensen, who teaches AP psychology and English. “The kids have to really want it.”

Cooper, who lives in Sanford with his parents and twin sisters, credits his fellow club members and Dr. Jensen with helping him bring Murder in the Subconscious Mind to life.

“Truly, the entire production was a labor of love from all of us, and I couldn’t be prouder with how it turned out,” Cooper says, adding, “Dr. Jensen is fantastic. She’s what makes this whole thing run.”

The play was showcased on May 18 at the Seminole State College theater, which was packed with supportive parents and friends. Cooper lights up when talking about pivotal moments in the show’s development and presentation.

“The first table read of the play was kind of like an out-of-body experience,” says Cooper, who is also a member of the Writers Guild at Crooms. “It was like, ‘I wrote this, and it’s coming out of other people’s mouths.’ It was insane.”

Although Cooper originally just wanted to direct the show, Dr. Jensen insisted he star as its struggling mystery writer. That’s because, Dr. Jensen says, the character had so much dialogue that it would have been daunting for another student to attempt.

On the night of the performance, Cooper got choked up when he saw everyone in costume. And, taking a bow with the rest of the cast after the final scene is something Cooper will never forget.

“It was one of the most powerful feelings I’ve ever had,” he says.

Meanwhile, Cooper isn’t taking the summer off from writing. He is already hard at work on his next play, a heist story that he hopes the drama club will produce as its 2019 spring show.

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