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Reflections on the Lincoln Heights Arts Camp


Lincoln Heights Arts Camp campers and teaching artists after their final showcase!

In July 2016, YPT held our first-ever multidisciplinary arts camp: the Lincoln Heights Arts Camp! Led by YPT staff and local artists, campers explored the faces and places of Northeast DC through photography, playwriting, audio design and visual art. The camp culminated in a final showcase, where campers read excerpts from their plays and showed off photos and art pieces that encapsulated their lives in Northeast!

After camp ended, camper Brittany Butler and photography week teaching artist Kenji Jasper wrote blog posts about their experience in camp. Read on for their thoughts and memories of the Lincoln Heights Arts Camp!

 Lincoln Heights Arts Camp Blog – Brittany Butler

LHAC Final Showcase-150 (Large)

Brittany Butler (R) performs during the Lincoln Heights Arts Camp’s final showcase.

My name is Brittany Butler, I’m 17 years old and I was a camper at YPT’s Lincoln Heights Art Camp. I was placed here as a job assignment for the Summer Youth Employment Program so I didn’t really know too much about the camp. IMG_0691My first day there was not what I expected and I honestly had no interest in staying for the whole camp. There was a lot of young kids there and I was basically the only one there that was my age so I was pretty bored. The following week is when things began to get better! There were no more young kids and more teens around my age began to come. The activities we did the first week were very fun as well. We started off learning a bit about Photography with Mr. Jasper.  I liked working with him because he made us engage with each other by having us work in groups. Doing this helped us get to know each other a little better. We also took a few little trips while working on photography. We went to Benning Road Metro Station, Marvin Gaye Park and to the famous landmark, The Shrimp Boat to shoot some fun shots of each other. The first week’s activities were so fun that I was really looking forward to next week which was playwriting.

Week Two we worked with Ms. Harris and Ms. Laurie to write a short play for our final showcase. The idea of playwriting did not seem like something I’d enjoy at first but of course Ms. Harris made the week very enjoyable! We chose a photo out of the ones we shot during Week One to base our play off. Mine ended up being about a girl who had no friends at school but had a connection with trees. She also had super powers that her mom didn’t like which led to an unexpected turn of events in the play! I ended up really enjoying the playwriting week and didn’t want to move on to the next week because I had so many ideas I wanted to add to my play.


Sound design with Kevin!

Week Three was music! We worked with Mr. Kevin who was a music engineer who worked with many people whose music I actually listen to. This week turned out being my favorite week out of the entire camp!! We created really cool sound effects and music that we added to our plays. It was really cool seeing how he could make a song sound like it was coming out of earphones or make footsteps sound far away to close up by just using one computer program. At the end of Week Three I was really excited to perform my play because of these sounds we created because it made everything more interesting!

The fourth and final week was visual arts. During this week we worked with Ms. Asha and made collages about our passions. I chose to do mine about Cheer because that’s one of my passions. I gathered a bunch of my favorite action shots of my cheer team and I, printed them out and created a beautiful collage that I am very proud of. So proud of that I took it home and hung it on my wall!! Next we made keychains out of wood. I wasn’t sure what to do so I ended up just writing my zodiac sign and birthday on it with puffy paint. When it was finished it actually looked really good. We also decorated old records. I kept this project simple and just painted my favorite saying on it, “Always Strive and Prosper”! I plan on hanging this in my locker when I go back to school as motivation to get through my SENIOR YEAR!

LHAC Final Perf Picstitch 2

Final showcase photos. “Always Strive and Prosper” on the left in green!

At the end the Lincoln Heights Art Camp ended up being a complete success and I am glad I got to spend my summer being involved with this camp. Not only was it fun but it taught me a lot as well and also brought out the creative side of me which I really enjoyed. The final showcase was very bittersweet because I was finally able to show everything I did throughout the camp but I also meant that the camp was over. I made some new friends that I look forward to building better friendships with and met some awesome teachers and mentors like, Ms. Harris and Ms. Duncan, which I plan on keeping in touch with for things in the future. 


Thanks to Brittany Butler for this blog post!

LHAC Final Showcase-203 (Large)

Kenji Jasper speaks at the Lincoln Heights Arts Camp’s final showcase.

Teacher’s Log: Photography Week – Kenji Jasper

I came to YPT as a veteran of teaching creative workshops for inner-city youth.  I had started just barely out of high school as a co-instructor for The Institute for the Preservation and Study of African American Writing, which eventually led to my work with organizations like the Brooklyn Center for the Environment, The Bedford-Stuyvesant ‘I Have A Dream’ program, CentroNia and most recently Guerilla Arts and The College Success Foundation.  I knew how to work with teens, but I had only taught photography once before.  And as I would only have three days of class time, I decided that I would focus less on techniques and equipment and more on sparking competition between groups and allowing the students to have a good time in the rising summer heat.

Having grown up partially in Benning Heights, I knew the area where Daybreak Ministries was holding the camp.  So I developed a curriculum based around students working in small groups outside of the classroom for the second half of each day, following an in-class first hour where they worked individually [ fortunately in air conditioning].  I knew that the more I kept them moving, the easier it would be to engage them in photography.  Using cellphones and two YPT iPads, students found the picture taking to be easy and enjoyable.  Those that didn’t like taking pictures served as models and muses for the others.

Once they began to see their work on the overhead projector at the start of each day the spirit of pride and competition encouraged them to take better pictures in hopes of cornering a little more spotlight for themselves among their peers.  They scaled high fences and repelled down hills to pose by a creek.  They framed shots on playgrounds and grassy hills behind orange brick buildings surrounding the camp headquarters.  And they now have the photos to prove it.

The best part of the experience for me was watching the students rise to each creative challenge.  Presented with a glass full of candy, each student had to take one photograph for each M&M they ate, resulting in a diverse array of photographs that captured not only the dwindling candy but the other students as they fired their best shots at the exercise.  They did the same with a game of chess and a team battle in playing cards.  With each outing, they learned that neither the job of photographer or model was an easy one.  But with effort and focus, everything is possible.


M&Ms have never looked so beautiful!

My reward came with the sadness and regret students expressed on the last day, as they all seemed to wish that we had more time.  Working with YPT provided me with one of my best teaching experiences to date.  I hope that we get to work together again.

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Thank you to Kenji Jasper for a terrific week! The students – and we – love you!

Parting Words from YPT Students

This year, three YPT superstars – Sam Burris, Nana Gongadze and Anna Vargas – graduated from high school. All three have been in our work since middle school, have had their plays produced and were long-term members of our Student Advisory Council. Most recently, Sam and Anna interned with us as part of their “Senior Experience” month at Washington-Lee High School.

As Sam, Nana and Anna go off to college, each left us with beautiful parting words. We have reprinted them here to celebrate their accomplishments, their growth and all they have given to the YPT family! Enjoy!

Senior Experience Reflection, by Sam Burris

FY16 SAC Show-224Imagine, if you will, being in eighth grade again. Your friend group is constantly oscillating, you are trying to decide where you are going to attend high school, and hair is growing in places where hair has never grown before. Then, in one of your most beloved classes, a stranger walks in one day. This stranger brings with them a tantalizing new idea: playwriting. With this idea comes the promise that at the end of the year, a select few lucky students will have their play professionally produced.

This was the situation I found myself in when I was first introduced to Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT), a DC nonprofit which works with students in the metro area to write full-length, completely original plays. I was one of those lucky few who had their play produced in YPT’s annual New Play Festival way back in 2012 (though I started working with them in 2011) and when it came time to decide on my “senior experience” internship a whole 5 years later, I couldn’t think of anywhere I would rather do it.

I’ve been working with YPT consistently, though in different capacities, for the 5 years I have been affiliated with the organization. Of course, my work with them started when their In-School Playwriting Program came into my eighth grade drama class, but since then I’ve performed alongside their hallmark after-school Workshop program, been a member of their Student Advisory Council, and spoken at various events, all of which has culminated in this internship. Going into senior experience, I was not only excited to give back to an organization which had given me so much in the past, but I was also ready to learn about one of the few fields of theatre arts I was not already well versed in: arts administration.Sam & Anna Last Day

Luckily for me, that is exactly what myself and fellow senior and YPT alum Anna Vargas got throughout our internship. No one ever really considers the nitty gritty work that arts administration requires when seeing the work presented before an audience. In the past four weeks I have sorted twenty one years’ worth of records, amassed a number of quotes and drawings for use in later publications, and extensively researched DC public schools. If you ever have any questions about the demographics of Cardozo Education Campus during the 2016 Fiscal Year or the production history of Savoy Elementary School as far back as the 2011 Fiscal Year, I am your man. Sadly though, we were never sent to get coffee for the office’s senior staff members. For that, you would probably have to ask many of the other senior experience candidates.

This internship has certainly taught me innumerable things about the field of arts administration and while I think that I will stick to creation and performance for the foreseeable future, I will always cherish the time I spent here. I have known since the eighth grade that I would miss YPT when I finally went off to college. However, working with them for the past four weeks has given me not only a deeper understanding of the inner-workings of their operation, it has given me insight into why I will miss it so dearly. The YPT staff strive to be much more than just administrators, teachers, and mentors; they sincerely want to be your friend. And, in my case, they are friends who I would rather not say goodbye to.

Sam Burris will attend the New School for Drama this fall, with his eye on becoming a professional actor. We will miss him dearly, too, and wish him all the best in the Big Apple! 

FY16 SAC Show-517

Senior Experience Reflection, by Anna Vargas


YPT and I go waaay back.

I’ve been involved with the program since I wrote my three character murder mystery play through the in school program and was selected as a finalist for the New Play Festival in 2012. However, I’ve known YPT staff since I met Laurie Ascoli the summer of 2011, where she was my camp counselor. Since that fateful summer and following fall, I have managed to maintain my ties with YPT as a member of the Student Advisory Council for four years, up until my graduation this year.

Yet, that was not the end of my tale! Sam, my fellow New Play Festival playwright in middle school and Council member in high school, and I interned at YPT through a program at our school allowing us to use the last month of our senior years to help YPT in any way they saw fit. After a good five years, I feel like I’m a seasoned pro at YPT and know a thing or two about this organization, which I’d like to share below.

1 .) The staff and artists are everything you could ever want and more. From secret “files” being passed around the office on the day of a coworker’s birthday to the enthusiasm and creativity brought to every challenge and task they are faced with, the YPT staff dedicates themselves to showing you the best that you can be, encouraging you, cheering you on, and making you feel like part of the family. Not a single person made me feel anything less than complete every time I entered the office. These people (and the stairs up to their offices) absolutely take my breath away.

OITC Reading Rehearsal-63

2 .) You will learn things about yourself you never knew. I didn’t know I could write or had the skills or imagination to do so until YPT provided me the platform to not only express, but explore all corners of myself and my mind. I remember after the first in school workshop, my friends all sat around at lunch speaking of exactly what they were going to write about, while I hardly had a clue. I was sure one of their plays would prove itself better than mine, as I was not the strongest writer nor had the wildest imagination that I knew of. Yet here I am, and I am still improving daily.

3 .) The communities YPT helps are truly changed for the better. One of my jobs whilst interning was to input self assessment surveys that students took before and after the in school workshop. It warmed my heart seeing the pre survey scores for questions like “My ideas are important” improve by one to three points from before the workshop to afterwards, and the suggestions section on the back filled with pleas from students for YPT to come back next year. I have seen students talk about YPT like the teaching artists have practically hung the moon for teaching them playwriting. I know for a fact that not only this skill, but ability to believe in yourself and what you can accomplish is going to help the next generation in creating a world we would all like to live in.

So, in closing, whether you’re a seasoned YPT pro like myself, or someone who scrambled up a web address and didn’t mean to happen across this blog post but managed to read all the way to the bottom anyway, I sincerely hope you invest your time in YPT. Donate! Volunteer! Intern! Write! They deserve so much. I’m quite thankful for all the time and opportunities they have provided me over the years, including the most recent one to invade their bean bags everyday for a month. Thank you.


Anna Vargas will attend Wellesley College in the fall. We’d better see you when you come back for Winter Break, Anna!🙂

A Parting Letter, by Nana Gongadze



Dearest YPT family,

It’s hard to say in a few words how much the last few years with all of you have meant to me. It has been a wonderful journey since I first stepped foot in your office four years ago – I have a clear memory of driving up for the very first NPF reception with butterflies in my stomach, because I didn’t know what I was in for or who I was going to meet. I am so thankful that what I did discover was a truly beautiful, big-hearted group of people who would inspire me so much throughout my high school days.

Thank you so much both for the experiences you all have given me, and the work you do every day. People talk sometimes about those experiences you have in your adolescent years that shape you and change you, that really impact you as a person – my time on the SAC has been one of those for me. The words we have created and achieved as an ensemble there have been some of the things I’ve been most impressed and surprised by, and most proud of. Every year I have been consistently blown away by how great our final product was, even if there were doubts along the way. Thank you so much for helping me to learn how to better work with an ensemble and a team, because those are valuable skills that I’ll surely take forward with me. Being honestly able to grow up alongside you and the little group we have has been a constant treat over the last few years and a consistent source of inspiration for me.


I also want to say that the work you do elsewhere in our community blows me away always. It seems like an unlikely thing to come together around, playwriting, and I think that’s one of the things that makes YPT so unique. I have always been proud to be a DC resident(ish) – all the work you do in the community honestly impresses me so much and makes me want to do good too. I know that I am just one of the lives you’ve touched – saying I’m not getting emotional writing this letter would be a lie, and it makes me so happy to think that so many other students get this feeling too thanks to you. You are all such a magnificent, kind, energetic, resourceful, fun and hardworking group of people. I hope you always can be reminded of how awesome you really are.

Goodbyes are SO hard for me because I am really sentimental – but I am exaggerating in now way when I say I’m never going to forget you all! I know it is not goodbye forever and I look forward to staying in touch as I move toward the end of the weird world of teenagerdom. I have so much love in my heart for you guys and I think what you do is really truly magic. The warmest of thanks to you all for the last five years. Have a wonderful summer and always keep on keeping on.

Nana Gongadze

PS: Please enjoy a small token of my thanks! It is delicious.

Nana YPTea

Nana Gongadze will attend American University in the fall. We are delighted to have her so close by, though we promise not to have her come speak at ALL our events…just some of them.🙂 We love you, Nana!


Dachauna Johnson – Promising Playwright, June 2016

Note: Every month, YPT features one standout young playwright in a piece called Promising Playwrights. We usually post those pieces on our website; however, our web hosts are dealing with technical difficulties right now, and we cannot publish any new content. Therefore, we decided to post this month’s feature on our blog! Enjoy this article, and visit yptdc.org/People/Promising for more!

Dachauna Johnson

“Believe in your dreams and … try out new things: you may find something you never thought you could do.”

Dachauna Johnson doesn’t advertise her many talents: she just lets them shine through in her life. The day after the incoming McKinley Tech ninth grader performed in The Young Playwrights’ Workshop Presents: Who Am I? Who Are You?, she stood up at Cardozo Education Campus’s eighth grade graduation—to give the valedictorian speech.

“I was pretty nervous,” she says, adding that her experience in the Young Playwrights’ Workshop helped her manage her stage fright. Her nerves were ratcheted up even more later in the ceremony, when she and her friend sang “I Believe I Can Fly”—before the school gave Dachauna its Music Award.

Dachauna’s talents come as no surprise to anyone who knows her. The soft-spoken, intelligent teen shows a deep understanding of the world and the human experience. Her favorite subject is science, and she already plans to pursue it in college and beyond. “I like how it ties into life and how it began,” she says.

In the Workshop, too, Dachauna saw the characters her peers were creating and devised hers as a foil to them. “Their characters were all down, so I was thinking about making the opposite, making a more ‘up’ person.” Though her character, Veronica, is very different from her, Dachauna thought through Veronica’s “past, her present and the way she carries herself,” and captured her peppiness and underlying vulnerability beautifully in Who Am I? Who Are You?.

Dachauna Johnson in YPW Photo Shoot

Despite her creative prowess, until recently Dachauna did not think of herself as a writer. “[Before YPT] I did not like writing at all … it wasn’t really my thing,” she says. “[Now,] I feel like I’ve been good at writing my whole life!

Though Dachauna is not yet sure whether she will be able to return to the Workshop, she’ll carry YPT’s lessons with her forever. “YPT helps a lot and guides you,” she reflects. We hope to see Dachauna again, and know that her talents will guide her to great heights!

The 2016 New Play Festival – Playwright Speeches

2016 New Play Festival Main Image

YPT’s 2016 New Play Festival featured fifteen hilarious, touching, charming and empowering plays written by young playwrights from across the DC area. From stories of time travel and magical homework to dance-offs and basketball showdowns, these fifteen plays shared the powerful voices of some of DC’s most exciting young artists!

Before the performance of their play, each playwright spoke to the crowd about their work, their dreams and their advice for other young playwrights. Their speeches were so inspiring that we decided to share them all with you in their entirety! 

Read on and enjoy!

NPF 2016 Night One Postcard FINAL FRONT

The 2016 New Play Festival – Night One
Monday, April 11, 2016
GALA Hispanic Theatre
Elementary School Plays


NPF 2016 Night One-578Wesley Hoy, Playwright,
Arrowstone in Woodland

My name is Wesley Hoy, and my play is called Arrowstone in Woodland. I am in the 4th grade at Bancroft Elementary School. The hardest part of writing it was coming up with ideas. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is that you should think before you write. I hope that in the future I will write another play. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is to play with my friends, and one thing that might surprise people is that I don’t like hot dogs. If I could change the world, I would want everyone to recycle. Now I hope that you enjoy my play, Arrowstone in Woodland.

NPF 2016 Night One-619Martina Mendoza, Playwright,
To Light Village We Go!

My name is Martina Mendoza, and my play is called To Light Village We Go! I am in the 5th grade at Harriet Tubman Elementary School. I got the idea for this play from when me and my best friend, Harmony, both wanted the same thing in 2nd grade. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is watch movies with my sisters. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: be creative. I hope that audiences who see my play will enjoy it, and see that you don’t always have to start out as friends with the people around you, but you can become friends later. I hope that in the future I am successful as a teacher. And now, please enjoy my play, To Light Village We Go!
NPF 2016 Night One-647Aarionna Thomas, Playwright,
The Two Parents

My name is Aarionna Thomas and my play is called The Two Parents. I am in the 5th grade at Orr Elementary School, and when I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is write, sing, dance, and watch TV. I hope that audiences who see my play will love it and want me to write another one. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: keep working hard and write what’s on your mind. I hope that in the future I will be a great writer. So please sit back and enjoy my play, The Two Parents.

NPF 2016 Night One-669Branaya Reese Brown, Playwright,
Mr. Rawr and the Kitty

My name is Branaya Reese Brown, and my play is called Mr. Rawr and the Kitty. I am in the 5th grade, and wrote this play when I was at Watkins Elementary School. I got the idea for this play from my imagination and a drawing I made. The hardest part of writing it was turning my drawing into a play. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: find something you like and write about it! I love animals, and one thing about me that might surprise people is that I can tell facts about over 100 animals. I hope that in the future I work at a zoo filled with animals, and if I were elected President, I would demand all animal-related books be sent to me. I hope that my play makes you laugh and smile, so please enjoy Mr. Rawr and the Kitty.
NPF 2016 Night One-706Talayia Richardson, Playwright,
God and Gabriel
My name is Talayia Richardson, and my play is called God and Gabriel. I am in the 5th grade at Wheatley Education Campus. I got the idea for this play from church, and a picture at another program. The hardest part of writing it was figuring out how to explain how God and Gabriel had a misunderstanding. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is to have good grammar and feel like you are in the audience and ask yourself questions about the play. I hope that in the future I will be rich and make plays and perform them in public. If I were elected President, I would give everybody the chance to vote and would give everybody a million dollars. Now I hope that enjoy and like my play, God and Gabriel.
NPF 2016 Night One-735Maddie Salunga, Playwright,
The Time Trap
My name is Maddie Salunga, and my play is called The Time Trap. I am in the 5th grade at Watkins Elementary School. I got the idea for this play from when my grandfather had skin cancer. I hope that audiences who see my play will enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed writing it. One thing about me that might surprise people is that even though I am athletic and am tough, I like being female. I also really like science and the outdoors. I hope that in the future there will be more cures for more illnesses. I would like to thank Ms. Joan, who came to our class and helped us out. This play is dedicated to my family and friends, but specifically my grandfather. Thank you, and please enjoy my play, The Time Trap.

NPF 2016 Night Two Postcard FINAL

The 2016 New Play Festival – Night Two
Monday, April 18, 2016
Anacostia Playhouse
High School Plays

NPF 2016 Night Two-878

Jarid Shields, Playwright, (Room)

My name is Jarid Shields and my play is called (Room). I am in the 12th grade at Eastern High School. My advice to other young people writing a play is: just write what you think is important or whatever you find interesting or funny. No idea is a bad idea. One thing about me that might surprise people is that I didn’t really consider myself a good writer; however, through this process, I have gained more confidence in my capabilities. I hope that audiences who see my play will gain a better understanding of the difficulties that people with illnesses and disorders, whether mental or physical, have to go through. I hope that in the future we can all be more sympathetic towards one another and be a little less quick to judge and stigmatize. Thank you, and please enjoy my play, (Room).


NPF 2016 Night Two-900Rachael Brock, Playwright, School

My name is Rachael and my play is called School.  I’m in the 10th grade at Anacostia High School.  I got the idea for my play from my brain—I have an overactive imagination.  The hardest part of writing was that I wrote a play and it was 38 pages long, so they had to cut it short. That broke my heart.  I hope that the audience, who see my play will love it and give good and bad feedback to know what I should strengthen for next time.  My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is to do it and always use imagination.  Don’t let no one bring you down.  One thing about me that might surprise people is I’m talkative and very playful.  When I have a free afternoon, my favorite thing to do is read and write.  I hope in the future that I’ll never stop reading, and if I were elected president, I would demand everyone to read.  Writing is fundamental.


NPF 2016 Night Two-933Ronald Coe III, Playwright, Ron Vs. The Living Homework

My name is Ronald Coe and my play is called Ron vs. the Living Homework. The hardest part of writing it was making the homework come to life. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: never give up. Keep striving to reach your goal. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is to play video games and listen to music.  I hope that in the future people learn that being mad is going to get you nowhere in life. So now I hope that you laugh and enjoy my play, Ron vs. the Living Homework.


NPF 2016 Night Two-973Nomin Ganmend, Playwright, Twins

My name is Nomin Ganmend and my play is called Twins. I am in the 12th grade at Wakefield High School. I hope that audiences who see my play will understand that no matter what happens, you should support your partner. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is to think about real life and show people what they should do to deal with their problems. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is crafting. I like to do and create new things. I hope that in the future I finish college and get the career I want. So now, please enjoy my play, Twins.

NPF 2016 Night Three Postcard FINAL FRONT

The 2016 New Play Festival – Night Three
Monday, April 25, 2016

Logan Fringe Arts Space
Elementary and Middle School Plays

Nafisa Weeks Headshot

Nafisa Weeks, Playwright, Living the Dream

My name is Nafisa Weeks and my play is called Living the Dream. I am in the 7th grade at Eliot-Hine Middle School. I got the idea for this play from my dream of becoming a CEO. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: use your imagination. One thing about me that might surprise people is that I like to do adventurous and extreme things such as cliff diving and sky diving. These are things I want to try. I hope that in the future I will be able to look back at all my achievements, and if I were elected President, I would make the world a better place. Now I hope that you will be amazed by my play, Living the Dream.


Alice Hockstader Headshot squareAlice Hockstader, Playwright, A Mortal in an Immortal Land

My name is Alice Hockstader and my play is called A Mortal in an Immortal Land. I am in the 7th grade at The Lab School of Washington. I got the idea for this play from Greek Mythology and the Percy Jackson series. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is read books, and one thing that might surprise people is that I make stories from nothing all the time. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: do something you know a lot about. I hope that in the future I will be a professor of Greek Mythology, and if I were elected President I would make more National Parks and help conserve animals. Now I hope you enjoy my play, A Mortal in an Immortal Land.


Marisa Poe Headshot squareMarisa Poe, Playwright, The Basketball Duel

My name is Marisa Poe and my play is called The Basketball Duel. I am in the 6th grade at Maret School. I got the idea for this play from my love for basketball. I realized how unequal the salaries between men and women professional basketball players are, and wanted to spread the word. I hope that audiences who see my play will understand how unjust the salary differences are and try to make a difference. The hardest part of writing this was probably just starting it. Once I began, though, it became hard to stop. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is to write about something you care about, and have fun with it! I hope that in the future these salary differences between men and women will change and women will get equal pay for equal work. Thank you, and please enjoy my play, The Basketball Duel.


Sierra Morris Headshot squareSierra Morris, Playwright, Show Your Moves

My name is Sierra Morris and my play is called Show Your Moves! I am in the 5th grade at Moten Elementary School. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is call my friends, go outside, and dance.  My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: don’t be afraid to show your talent in your plays, because it can probably kick off your future dream. I want someone to see my play and say, “That’s wonderful that a 12 year old black girl is taking her life seriously, and that she wants to do and be something that she wants to do.” If I were elected President, I would stop gun violence and stop the hate of other people, and stop having people live on the street. I hope that in the future me and my family and friends will have a better life and live our dreams. So now please enjoy my play, Show Your Moves!


Kreshaun Brooks HeadshotKreshaun Brooks, Playwright, Bob’s Halloween

My name is Kreshaun Brooks and my play is called Bob’s Halloween. I am in the 5th grade at Moten Elementary School. One thing about me that might surprise people is that this is my first time writing a play or anything close to a play. I hope that audiences who see my play will laugh so hard that they jump out of their seats and fly through the roof! My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is to write whatever you think the audience will love, and they will love it even more than you thought. I hope that in the future everyone’s house is made of candy and robots make ice cream sundaes for everyone. So now I hope you laugh your pants off and enjoy my play, Bob’s Halloween.


Congrats to all our 2016 New Play Festival playwrights! We’re so proud of you!

NPF 2016 Kickoff Party-469

Who’s Next? Dominique Butler and YPT’s Young Artist Fellowship

Dominique Butler cutout “I’m not just writing for myself, I’m writing for everybody.”
– Dominique Butler

The young playwrights that YPT serves are all immensely gifted: smart and creative; funny and dramatic; profoundly invested in the world they create on the page. All go on to do great things, and many who complete our In-School Playwriting Program choose to stay involved with YPT, through our Young Playwrights’ Workshop, Student Advisory Council or other opportunities.

Every so often, however, a playwright comes along who demonstrates a long-term commitment to the craft, whose artistic project exceeds the bounds of one performance and who has shown an interest  in an ongoing mentorship with YPT staff. For those young playwrights, YPT is proud to announce the Young Artist Fellowship: a year-long mentorship designed to engage one teen writer in a play development process from start to finish. Presently in its first year, the Fellowship seeks to cultivate the Young Artist Fellow as an artist as well as a future member of the workforce, teaching accountability and commitment through one-on-one mentorship with a YPT staff member.

YPT’s inaugural Young Artist Fellow, Dominique Butler, emerged from our In-School Program at Cardozo High School with an extraordinary piece of writing. Entitled Like Father, Like Son, Dominique’s play follows a young black man trying not to repeat the mistakes that landed his father in jail. The play’s emotional honesty struck a chord with our New Play Festival readers, and Like Father, Like Son wound up closing our 2015 Festival to resounding applause.

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Dominique watches his words unfold onstage.

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Reginald Richard as Dominique in LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

But Dominique wasn’t done yet. The poet and storyteller, who started writing at age 13 to cope with the death of his grandfather, had more to say—and he wouldn’t stop until he said it. “It happens here all the time…if you’re out there just chilling, you’re a target,” he says. “These people got names.”

The people Dominique means have names like Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner: young black men killed by police or other authority figures, victims of a pattern of institutionalized racism and violence that has galvanized our nation. As the #BlackLivesMatter movement rose to prominence, Dominique found himself compelled to join in their call—especially when his own friend, Davon, was shot and killed by DC police. From his grief emerged Who’s Next?, a play which imagines that Davon, Trayvon and Freddie are friends who use music to speak out against police brutality—and whose clarion call leads to a dramatic confrontation with a police officer. “It’s a message,” Dominique says. “It’s not just a play.”

Dominique’s message began to take shape at Curious Theatre Company’s Curious New Voices National Collective in Denver, which he attended over the summer. “Dominique is amazing,” writes Curious New Voices Program Director Dee Covington. “Quiet, diligent, taking it all in. …[The other playwrights] had no idea his piece, at once personal and political, was there to shake up the world.” As Like Father, Like Son had at the 2015 New Play Festival, Who’s Next? closed the Curious New Voices final performance to a standing ovation and watery eyes. “Some people were crying,” Dominique admits.


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Dominique and the other playwrights in the post-show talkback.

Actors performing WHO'S NEXT

Professional actors perform WHO’S NEXT? at Curious New Voices.


Back in DC, Dominique strove to continue working on Who’s Next?. We at YPT had been considering launching a Young Artist Fellowship for some time, and realized that Dominique’s project provided us with the perfect opportunity to pilot the program. So, in October, 2015, we signed a contract with our first-ever Young Artist Fellow, and began meeting with him regularly to finish Who’s Next? and deepen its message. After a reading at Cardozo High School, Who’s Next?  inspired our next production, Silence Is Violence: Who’s Next?, a professional staged reading and multidisciplinary artistic response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Join us on Monday, February 29, at 7pm at the Anacostia Playhouse for this powerful continuation of YPT’s Silence Is Violence series. Free and open to the public!

Who's Next flier FINAL

Though Dominique’s time as YPT’s Young Artist Fellow will conclude in June, we are excited to continue the program next year and beyond with another talented young artist. Who will take up the mantle and shape his or her own project? What will the next Young Artist Fellowship hold? How will this one impact Dominique—and, through him, the world—in the next few years? We don’t know yet, but we can’t wait to find out!

Top Ten Hero Moments of 2015

Cristian Daly PP photoAt the end of every year, we here at YPT like to count down the top ten most memorable moments of the year that was. This year, in our continuing celebration of YPT heroes, we decided to honor the Top Ten Hero Moments of 2015! These are moments big and small, when members of the YPT family acted heroically or honored the heroes who inspire them.

Want to be a #YPThero? There’s still time! Donate to YPT by December 31 and help over 2,000 DC-area young people realize the power of their voices next year.



Thank you, and enjoy the countdown!





  1. YPT Students and Theater Artists Speak Out at Silence Is Violence: A #BlackLivesMatter Event

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YPT’s first event of the year was also one of our most powerful: Silence Is Violence: a #BlackLivesMatter Event. Held in the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement, this pop-up performance brought local students together with professional theater artists for a night of creative responses to the movement. In front of a capacity crowd at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, these artists shared their profound, sometimes tragic and often uplifting feelings about racism and police brutality in America. The night ended with a space for community reflection and art-making!

Thank you to all the YPT heroes who shared their voices at Silence Is Violence: a #BlackLivesMatter Event! For more, visit silenceisviolencedc.tumblr.com.

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  1. Evan Alston Donates His Allowance at YPT’s 20th Anniversary Gala

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Giving Back to the Future: YPT’s 20th Anniversary Giving Voice Award Gala was an event for the ages. Honoring NPR’s Diane Rehm, this Back to the Future-themed celebration brought DC philanthropists, theater artists and student playwrights together at The National Press Club for a night of eating and drinking, dancing and supporting young voices!

Evan Alston gala auction croppedThough Diane Rehm touched us all with her inspiring words, the night’s true hero was Evan Alston, a fifth-grade student at E.W. Stokes PCS. After reading an original poem he wrote about YPT, Evan donated his very own money to YPT at the live auction! That’s the mark of a true #YPThero!

YPT’s 2016 Giving Voice Award Gala is Saturday, March 12, 2016, at the North Hall at Eastern Market! Honoring Shakespeare Theatre Co. Artistic Director Michael Kahn, the gala promises to be as exciting and fun as the last three.

Tickets are now on sale: buy them online at yptdc.org/GetInvolved/GivingVoiceGala/!

Gala pics from AR



  1. YPT Playwright Ja’Neza Honors Her Heroic Brother at the 2015 New Play Festival

NPF 2015 Group A-434Among the many magical moments we saw at the 2015 New Play Festival, perhaps the most touching was seeing elementary school playwright Ja’Neza Andrews-Washington honor her serviceman brother through her play.

Ja’Neza’s play, The Confusion of Being in the Army, is based off her brother’s experiences leaving home for Army boot camp. Her brother came to the performance and seemed to truly cherish his little sister’s tribute!

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NPF 2015 Group A-555Click here for information on YPT’s 2016 New Play Festival, which will be unlike any we have ever held before! Taking place over three weeks at three theaters around DC, the 2016 Festival will engage the larger community in exciting and innovative ways.

Join us April 11, 18 and 25, 2016 for the new-look New Play Festival!



  1. YPT Hero Dominique Butler Shines at the Curious New Voices National Collective

Dominique Butler cutoutJust before the 2015 New Play Festival, YPT received an exciting email from Curious Theatre Company in Denver, CO. Their Curious New Voices National Collective, a week-long summer intensive for promising teen playwrights, was set to begin, and they wanted a YPT playwright to attend! We invited Cardozo High School student Dominique Butler, whose stirring play we were producing in the Festival, and who had expressed an interest in continuing his playwriting education.

Dominique flew to Denver (his first time on a plane!) and wrote a powerful Black Lives Matter play called Who’s Next? The play, which follows three young black men (including Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin) through a trying encounter with a policeman, received a standing ovation at the intensive’s final showcase! As Curious New Voices leader Deb Covington wrote to us, “[The audience] had no idea his piece, at once political and personal, was there to shake up the world.”

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Click here for photos from a recent reading of Who’s Next? at Cardozo, and stay tuned for more on the play in the new year!



  1. YPT says goodbye to one staff hero and hello to another!

Welcome Thembi-46In August, YPT entered into a time of exciting transition, as long-time Artistic Director Nicole Jost left to pursue her MFA in Playwriting and we welcomed DC theater veteran Thembi Duncan onto our team as Creative Programs Director! Since joining YPT, Thembi has led her first in-school playwriting workshop and produced her first YPT staged reading: Girls Write Out!, our entry into the Women’s Voices Theater Festival!


To rally the DC theater community around young women’s voices, Thembi also began our “What Happens When?” video campaign, getting contributions from across America—including one from Nicole, who remains a dear member of the YPT family all the way from San Francisco!


Compilation video: What happens when a young person realizes the power of her voice?

Celebrate the heroes who dedicate themselves to the arts: donate to YPT in honor of a staff member or theater artist!



  1. YPT Students Tackle Mental Health and Gun Violence in Original Plays

YPW 2015 Performance-28.jpgThe dedicated young artists of YPT’s Young Playwrights’ Workshop  and Student Advisory Council are used to taking on serious subjects in their work, but 2015 saw them tackle perhaps their most delicate issues yet: mental health and gun violence.

The Young Playwrights’ Workshop’s 2015 original play, The Art of Understanding, delved into perceptions of mental illness through three powerful vignettes woven together with poetry and personal reflection. Written and performed by the Workshop’s teen artists, The Art of Understanding wowed the packed house at the Source Festival in June!

_MG_2440In the fall of 2015, the artist-advocates of YPT’s Student Advisory Council contributed to a landmark event: the DC premiere of gun control play One in the Chamber. Council members wrote short plays in response to One in the Chamber, and two were chosen for a professional staged reading that followed the show’s closing performance on September 6. Congratulations to the current and former Council members who wrote such powerful, complex pieces!

The Workshop and Council will be back with more performances in 2016: click here for the dates, and mark your calendars now!



  1. YPT Staff, Board and Volunteers Team Up to Clean Up Tubman Elementary School

Tubman Beaut Day 2015-4.jpgTwo days before the 2015-2016 school year began, YPT staff and volunteers—including a great team from Acumen Solutions—met at YPT partner school Tubman Elementary School, to help get the campus ready for students to arrive. From spreading mulch in the garden to decorating display cases, the YPT family banded together to make Tubman an even more delightful place to learn. After the volunteer event, many gathered at Pete’s Apizza for a pizza party fundraiser supporting our work!

Tubman Beaut Day 2015-8In the two years since it began, YPT’s partnership with Tubman has grown so close that we recently decided to adopt the school, through DCPS’s Adopt-a-School program. Since the beautification event, we have assisted Tubman in improving their assemblies, and held a holiday clothing drive to support their homeless and low-income students! We look forward to many more years of partnership with Tubman.

Thank you to YPT’s amazing volunteers and corporate sponsors for supporting our work and ongoing partnerships!

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  1. YPT serves over 1,500 students with playwriting programming in 2015!

Tubman2014-182_croppedYPT is proud and humbled to have served over 1,500 DC-area students with playwriting programming in 2015. Between our In-School Playwriting Program and Summer Playwriting Program, we reached young people ages 8-18 in all eight wards of DC, Northern Virginia and Maryland!

Guided by our Dream Impact Map, in 2015 YPT continued to expand our programming in Wards 1, 7 and 8, where students have the least access to arts education. With a larger presence in high-need schools like Cardozo Education Campus and Anacostia High School, and new partnerships at Wheatley Education Campus, Kramer Middle School and more, YPT is poised to make a deep, lasting impact in the DC neighborhoods that can most benefit from our services!

Help YPT serve even more young artists in 2016: make a tax-deductible donation today!

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  1. DC Theater Rallies for Young Women’s Voices at Girls Write Out!

GWO-317YPT’s 2015-2016 performance season began with a bang, as Girls Write Out! packed the house at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Hall!

Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, Girls Write Out! featured the powerful voices of four young female playwrights. From the hilarious to the tragic, their words resounded through the DC theater professionals who brought them to life onstage! The performance concluded with a wonderful playwright talkback, led by YPT founder Karen Zacarías.

Leading up to Girls Write Out!, some of the most celebrated women in the DC theater community contributed to our “What Happens When?” video series, sharing their thoughts on what happens when a girl realizes the power of her voice. Even Shakespeare Theatre Co. GWO-70Artistic Director Michael Kahn, YPT’s 2016 Giving Voice awardee, got in on the action, delivering a powerful address before the show!

In the words of one Girls Write Out! playwright: “The ladies overall take power.”




  1. YPT heroes help SAVE arts education during Hero Week!

Hero Week TY ImageIn the wake of Girls Write Out!, YPT realized just how many amazing heroes we have in our lives: our students, our teaching artists and actors, our Board of Directors, our volunteers and the entire YPT family. In honor of those heroes, we launched Hero Week, a celebration of the heroes our young artists create and the heroes who make YPT great!

Our goal for Hero Week was to raise $5,000 to support our students in 2016. Instead, thanks to the over 125 YPT heroes who donated that week, we raised nearly $6,500! With a match grant from the Cafritz Foundation, that money immediately doubled to over $10,000.

But we’re not done yet: our goal is to raise $25,000 by the end of 2015, with every dollar going directly into the classroom. Click here to donate, and help bring a young person’s voice to life in the new year!

Thank you, YPT heroes! We love you all!

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Be a #YPThero during YPT’s Hero Week!

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“What happens when a young person realizes the power of her voice? She becomes the hero of her own story.”

YPT’s young playwrights love to write about superheroes. From Supergirl to Tornado Boy and Broccoli Man, some of the most memorable characters created by YPT students wear masks and capes.

Why is that? We think it’s because creating superheroes allows young people to let their imaginations run wild, and gives them a vehicle to see themselves as someone who can change the world.

Take a look at some of the amazing superheroes YPT students created for their plays during our In-School Playwriting Program this year:

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Each of these characters represents a dream for a young person: a dream of making a difference, of being special – of being great.

This holiday season, you can be a #YPThero, and show a young playwright how great they truly are. 

How? Let us tell you!

  1. Donate to YPT!

    Now through the end of 2015, we are seeking out those heroes who will stand up for the forces of arts education, to give of themselves so that young people can experience the joy of creation. Will you make that difference?? Just $10/month pays for one student to take the In-School Playwriting Program for an entire semester!


  2. Join YPT for Hero Week!

    Starting on Monday, November 16, YPT is holding our first-ever Hero Week, celebrating our young heroes and the people who paved the way for their greatness. Every day during Hero Week, we’ll honor heroes big and small with fun social media activities. Post photos of yourself as a superhero, share stories of everyday heroes in your life and much, much more!

    Stay tuned for all the details on Hero Week, coming next week to this blog!

Follow the whole campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @yptdc, using hashtag #YPThero! Thank you for helping DC’s young people become the heroes of their own stories!

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