In July, YPT will say goodbye to our amazing Producing Artistic Director and CEO David Snider, as he moves on to an exciting new job at Arena Stage. David told YPT’s community of supporters in a recent email, “I am sad to leave, but I am confident that I am leaving YPT in excellent hands…Thanks to our innovative, collaborative staffing model, we have a senior management team ready to step up and effectively lead the organization the day I step down.” As of July 1, Deputy Director Brigitte Moore will become Acting Executive Director, and YPT’s awesome Program Manager Nicole Jost will continue to manage program and production activities.
I sat down with Brigitte and Nicole this week to talk about their passion for YPT and their dreams for next year.
What brought you to YPT?
Brigitte: I joined YPT in 2006. I had been working as a legislative director for two state Delegates in Annapolis, while running a small theater company at night, and I was looking for a way to combine my passion for social impact with my art. I was so impressed with the work YPT was doing to transform DC area classrooms using playwriting and theater. I could tell that the company was building something amazing – a citywide model for using the arts to inspire and empower young people, enhance literacy and deepen engagement in learning. I leaped at the opportunity to get involved. I’ve worn a number of hats since joining the YPT staff six years ago – in producing and directing, fundraising and communications, and, most recently as Deputy Director. I love my job.
Nicole: I am a proud YPT alum! I wrote a play called The Fear and the Pope as a high school student. The play was performed by a professional cast at The Folger Theatre. I look back on the experience as one of the high points in my education. Then, while studying theater in college, I developed a profound desire to serve my community through the art form. I had plenty of opportunities for meaningful artistic expression growing up, but many DC youth don’t have that access. I believe the arts have value for all people, no matter what your career path. When I wrote The Fear and the Pope I created an alter ego character named Nick Tifar. She was bold, intelligent and valued by her friends. By contrast, I was insecure and unhappy. Imagining this character was part of my development as a human being, it was a way of wrestling with issues of identity. At the same time, I was developing my writing skills in an innovative context. All students need experiences like that. So when I was offered a position on the YPT staff in 2008, I jumped at the chance. And I’ve never looked back.
Why do you come to work every day?
Nicole: To serve our students. Our staff is very conscious of our mission, meaning that everything we do has an impact on students’ lives. Even if I’m in the middle of paperwork, I know that what I’m doing has an impact on young people in this city. It’s inspiring to work here.
Brigitte: I agree with Nicole. Our students are central to everything we do, and our entire staff and amazing company of artists are completely committed to our mission. What we do together is so pure, and so important. I’m proud to work here. I love telling people what I do for a living.
What are you most excited about accomplishing in the coming season?
Nicole: Over the years, YPT has developed a comprehensive, standards-based playwriting curriculum. Next season, for the first time, we will publish that curriculum and disseminate it nationally. I’m incredibly excited about the potential impact we could have around the country. I want to give teachers the tools to incorporate the arts into their lessons – whatever the content may be. Toni Conklin, an amazing teacher at Bancroft Elementary School who has been with us for more than ten years, teaches the life cycle of the butterfly to her fifth grade class by having the students write monologues for each stage of development. It’s these kinds of innovations that we hope to inspire. I want educators to know that the arts can be a powerful tool for increasing student engagement and achievement across disciplines.
Brigitte: Next year is going to be big for YPT. We received an UPSTART capacity building grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities this spring, and, in addition to starting the exciting national dissemination project that Nicole just mentioned, we will be using our UPSTART grant to work with our incredible outside evaluator Barry Oreck to develop an organizational impact assessment tool. We currently have great program assessment tools, and we’re very clearly demonstrating the direct impact we have on student learning and engagement in the classroom. We hear from alumni, parents and teachers anecdotally all the time about the long-term impact of this programming, but we have yet to formally investigate and demonstrate the impact we have on students’ resiliency, confidence and success years beyond the classroom. It will be a lot of fun to reconnect with alumni next year to begin exploring that question.
What’s with the bean bag chairs anyway?
Brigitte: Ah, yes, the bean bag chairs. I’m excited to say we currently have the strongest staff and board we have had in my time at YPT, working in perfect concert to accomplish YPT’s mission and grow our impact. We did a lot of work this past year to strengthen our company culture at YPT, and the entire staff worked together to create some value statements related to our company culture. One of these value statements reads, “We work to build a culture driven by inspiration, creativity and joy, and supported by collaboration and teamwork. The YPT office is a safe and comfortable space where all staff, students and artists are deeply valued and respected.” The entire staff had the opportunity to contribute to redesigning our office this past fall to encourage even greater “inspiration, creativity and joy.” Bean bag chairs, comfy rugs and lap desks for remote work were some of the additions we made to transform our space. Since we added the bean bags, the entire office feels friendlier and more welcoming. I love when students drop by to ask a question or pick up work, and then plop down in the bean bag chairs to hang out for a while.
Nicole: Plus, they’re incredibly comfortable. Some of my favorite meetings have taken place in those bean bags.
You can talk more with Brigitte and Nicole in person at our next performance, Young Playwrights’ Workshop Presents, on June 11, at 7pm, at GALA Hispanic Theatre. We can’t wait to see you there!
Communications and Graphic Design Associate