I can’t remember a time when theater wasn’t a part of my life. From school plays to a children’s theater that was more like a family, I was lucky to always have access to the arts. By high school I knew that theater wasn’t just a hobby; it was my passion. During our senior year, my friends and I put together a cabaret featuring songs and student-written monologues about various issues that we had faced as teenagers. It was around that time that I knew I wanted other kids to feel as inspired and empowered by the arts as I had been.
The next year, I moved to DC for college and I somehow happened upon the YPT website. I read about the programs, and watched all the videos. For the subsequent two years, I discussed them in several papers that I wrote about arts education and theater for social change. This summer I finally got to meet the people behind the program. I have to admit, I was worried. Would I live up to their expectations? Would it be the great place that I had imagined? I got lucky; it was.
There’s something special about YPT. You can feel it in the offices, when you see the brightly colored beanbag chairs in the middle of the room, and the pictures of students that cover our walls. When you talk to the staff about a new YPT program, you can see them glow with excitement. Every person on this team is incredibly talented and passionate about their work. It’s inspiring to work at a place where everyone cares so much about the mission, and where the office is such a genuinely happy place.
I’ve been part of some incredible projects this summer, but my favorite was helping to prepare for the publication of our new book. As I’ve prepared the plays for publication, I have gotten the chance to read some of the best plays by YPT students from the past 17 years. Students write from their own experience, so in the past few weeks I’ve read stories of interracial love, fighting with parents, gentrification, and the experience of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants. The dialogue is peppered with Spanish, rap, poetry, and even Chinese. Some of the younger students wrote whimsical plays about talking vegetables or childhood crushes. One student even wrote a gorgeous spin-off on Alice in Wonderland.
In these stories, we saw underdogs stand up to bullies, friends defend each other, and villains learn the errors in their ways. These young people wrote about issues that mattered to them, and created their own resolutions to problems they saw. I’ve loved the chance to look into the lives and imaginations of our young artists. Their words are powerful, and their stories are well worth telling.
YPT students get the chance to watch professionals bring their words to life onstage every year. This fall, they’ll get to read their plays and bios in a published book. For some, the plays are fresh in their memories, while others will find that years later, their stories are still remembered, still brilliant, and still relevant. If you want to see the power of YPT, this book is going to blow you away. Buy a copy this fall for the young artists in your life – and for yourself.
Proceeds from sales of the YPT book support YPT’s work in the classroom and inspire future playwrights to see the power of their words.