"See me? I am invisible," Mia tells a packed audience at the Alleyway Theatre in downtown Buffalo. "Not to you, but to my family, most definitely."
Mom and Dad are sitting in the living room, talking about how their friends will react to their planned move. Mia is sporting red-plaid pants and a yellow jacket over an orange shirt, but her parents just don't seem to see her.
As Mom and Dad's conversation continues, they decide not to move but to add a room to the house and repaint the interior.
"What about my room?" Mia asks.
She gets no response.
Now they're talking about a new use for Mia's bedroom. "All those posters that what's-her-name has put up," Dad complains.
Mia sits on the back of the sofa, between her parents, and tells us, "I was only joking when I said I was invisible." Then she sits upside down on Dad's chair.
"Fine," she says. "Then I'll just make them notice me!" With that, she collapses dramatically on the floor.
When last seen, Mia was lying on the Alleyway stage, where "Mia" recently had its world premiere. This 12-minute play won a $2,000 scholarship for Tearra Rhodes, 15, a sophomore at the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart in Snyder. She lives in Buffalo with her mother, Beverly, and sister, Rakisha, 13.
Even though she's still a sophomore, Tearra's play was judged the best of nearly 30 entries in the annual Write to Be Heard contest of KidShowCo, the youth program directed by Joyce Stilson of Alleyway. The play was directed by Margo Davis of Buffalo Academy for the Visual & Performing Arts with her students. The role of Mia was played by Holly Sobocinski.
Winning honorable mention were "The Last Temptation of Tom Gray," by Victoria Chatfield of Buffalo Seminary; "The Art of Forgiving," by Lisa Otto of Grand Island High School; and "The Me Nobody Sees," by Devin Rooney of the Academy for the Visual & Performing Arts.
"I've always liked children," said Laura Adams of Hamburg, whose Laura Adams Foundation wrote the $2,000 check for the winning play. She is a retired second-grade teacher and a former director of Camp Long Acres in East Aurora.
"I never knew that I could write plays or that I liked writing plays, but I do," said Tearra, who also sat in on rehearsals. "My friends thought it was cute, and they thought it was really cool that I had written it. They said it was good acting and good writing."
What about the play's message?
"They said it was really meaningful," Tearra said, "that parents should pay attention to their children. And include them in any matters of the family."
Her next project will be a Christmas play for her church, Christ Gospel Church of Buffalo.
Tearra said the $2,000 scholarship money has been set aside for college. She plans a writing career and has written two pieces so far as a NeXt correspondent.
"She always used to write things," said her mother. "We have a scrapbook of a whole bunch of stuff that she used to do -- plays, poetry. She went to Martin Luther Christian School and her teacher couldn't wait to read her essays. She wants to go to a good college, and she wants to be a good writer. I'm very proud of her. I let her know that what she does is important to me."
David Granville, who introduced the premier of Tearra's play as city arts commissioner, summed up the excitement of theater when he told theatergoers: "The voices she heard in her head, before she put them down on paper, have only been read thus far. When it is performed tonight for the first time, it will be seen not on TV or in the movies -- on a two-dimensional screen -- but as live theater, which puts these words out on the stage and into your heads and hearts and souls."