Young Playwright Mariana Pavón Sánchez Speaks at National Award Ceremony with Michelle Obama

On October 20, 2010, YPT received a very special fifteenth birthday present. We won the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the highest honor in the nation for a program like ours. YPT Producing Artistic Director and CEO David Snider, and YPT playwright Mariana Pavón Sánchez spent the afternoon at the White House participating in a private ceremony presented by First Lady Michelle Obama.

YPT was one of only 15 winners selected for this honor, from a national pool of more than 400 nominations. Mariana  was the only youth participant chosen to speak at the award ceremony.

You can watch the entire award ceremony (including Mariana’s speech) here, and you can read Mariana’s speech below:

“Hello, my name is Mariana Pavón Sánchez, and I am an 11th grade student with Young Playwrights’ Theater, or YPT. Just over a year ago I began studying with YPT, as part of my English as a second language class. YPT helped me know that I can express myself through writing – and that what I have to say matters. I wasn’t sure I could do it at first, but then I realized I could write a play about my own life, so I wrote a play called Mariana’s Wish, about my mother and how much I miss her. The YPT teaching artists helped me find my inspiration, shape my ideas on the page and revise my play until it was exactly what I wanted to say.

I was so excited when my play was chosen to be produced in YPT’s citywide New Play Festival. Seeing my play performed by professional actors was an amazing experience – but seeing and hearing the audience’s reaction to my story was even better. They laughed and cried – and I realized the power of my words. My advice to other students: don’t be afraid to express yourself through writing, even if it is something small. It’s important.

I was a very shy student, afraid to speak out. And here I am addressing the First Lady of the United States – and it’s all thanks to Young Playwrights’ Theater, to the arts and the humanities and to the power of my own ideas.

Now I would like to read you the beginning of my play, Mariana’s Wish. It is about my missing my mother in another country, and my father who won’t let me go to see her. I start the play from my point of view, angry because I don’t understand why he won’t let me go. But then I also wrote from his point of view –he is just worried about me. At the end of play we understand each other, and he lets me go. This is the beginning:

‘I came to this country last year. First I wanted to come to learn English. Mi Mami didn’t come with me because her visa expired in 2007, and she and my grandfather are both sick, so she can’t travel. Now I want to go back to Nicaragua to visit, because I miss mi Mami. I miss talking to her every night. I want to taste her vaho that she cooks really well. We used to go outside to El Mirador de Catarina, where we spent hours walking and talking. We talked about boys. She also gave me advice about how I have to act with them. Another thing that I miss is when we talked about what I want to do for my future. I want to do those things with mi Mami again. I want to spend Christmas with mi Mami, mi hermano, mi familia and mis amigos; they are the most important people in my life. I’ve asked my Dad three times before if I can go to Nicaragua but he doesn’t really take me seriously. So this morning before he leaves for work, I’ll talk to him and he’ll have to listen to me.’

Thank you so much!”

You can read more about YPT’s National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award here.

Mariana Pavón Sánchez
Young Playwright

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