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History in the Making: Reflections from New Writers Now!

On Monday, February 7, 2011, an unprecedented number of community members from all over the DC metro area filled every available seat in GALA Hispanic Theatre to enjoy New Writers Now! – From Civil War to Civil Rights.

YPT presented original plays that explore the ways our history shapes us today, including I am a Slave by Maret School student Jack Brotman, Mercy, Mercy Me by Bell Multicultural High School student Ellen Hubbard, and Woodlawn, created collaboratively with residents and organizations throughout DC’s Ward 7.

After the performance, the audience was invited to reflect in writing on the plays they had just experienced. The results were insightful, honest, and poignant. Take a look at some of the responses, and feel free to comment below with your own thoughts!

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 The plays made me think about the big, often nasty and almost always glazed over and left unsaid conflicts in DC today.

  • How do newcomers to DC, who want to be part of a community, or part of creating a new “story”, interact with the existing community?
  • How do we get beyond gentrification/provocation, and the inherent conflicts of race and class that people are too ready to glaze over?
  • How do we talk to one another about development and progress without resorting to caricatures or engendering greater distrust and conflict?

Theater’s a good way to air these—thanks for your work.
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My own personal belief is that history should be preserved, but in order for history to last, it must be taught. In Woodlawn, I saw the generational gap where the personal history of the Elders had not been shared with the young people. Apathy can set in, and it corrodes the history. So the responsibility falls on the previous generation to teach the next generation the history and importance of a particular area.
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My father was buried not far from where I lived as a child, but we very rarely went to the site. This was partially due to the fact that we lost him so young, and it was just too painful to live with on a regular basis. I had gone to college and my mother had moved away before I decided to try and go back. I wandered through the rows of tombstones for twenty minutes before finding his. When the people in the play talked about the necessity for a place dedicated to them, a place where they live on, I was thrown back to the near-panic state I reached during the time that I couldn’t find his stone, the fear that, in never visiting the site and revisiting his memory, I might have lost him forever.
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A young audience member responds to the play Woodlawn with a drawing.

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I think about space, place, and meaning as inscribed in the built, or un-built environment. This play was incredible in helping me realize even more the importance of learning the history of those before me who have inscribed meaning in place. And that each person has a voice, and it should be heard.

So thank you, for telling these stories.

A loyal fan and neighbor,
Liz, age 22
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Thank you to everyone who came out to GALA Hispanic Theatre to celebrate our playwrights on Monday. It meant so much to see you all there.

We hope to see you all at the New Play Festival in April. Click here to learn more.

Raina
Community Engagement Associate

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