Dear YPT family,
Hello! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Thembi Duncan and I am YPT’s new Creative Programs Director. I am overjoyed to meet all of you, and to take on a leadership role in an organization I have loved and admired for so long!
Allow me to tell you a bit about myself: I was born and raised in the DC area, studied Theatre at the University of Maryland and have been dedicated to DC’s young people and performing arts community throughout my artistic career here. I began as an actor, then transitioned into playwriting, teaching and producing—though I still find myself on stage every so often. 🙂 Before coming to YPT, I was the Lead Teaching Artist at Ford’s Theatre, the Producing Artistic Director of the African Continuum Theatre Company and a co-founder of UMD’s Black Theatre Symposium.
When I was first getting my start in DC theater, I met an up-and-coming playwright named Karen Zacarías, who told me about a new arts education nonprofit she had founded called Young Playwrights’ Theater. Before she could even finish explaining it to me, I was hooked. The idea of creating avenues for young people to freely express themselves, and then hiring professional actors to realize their visions, spoke to me on so many levels: as an artist, a black woman and a new mother, I saw right away the potential for YPT to transform young peoples’ lives. “Where do I sign up?” I asked. Karen Evans, YPT’s Managing Director at that time, was another huge influence on my decision to contribute my talents to the nurturing of young playwrights.
For the next several years, I worked on and off with YPT, performing student-written plays alongside such DC theatre luminaries as Jefferson Russell and KenYatta Rogers. My crowning achievement as a YPT actor came when I was cast as Lil’ Red in Lil’ Red in Da Hood, a YPT Communitywrites! production that we performed at the Carnegie Institute of Washington and the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Since then, I have stayed involved with YPT in an artistic capacity, most recently reading a poem I wrote at Silence Is Violence, YPT’s inspiring #BlackLivesMatter community event.
Though, over the last few years, my career has taken me away from working directly with YPT, the organization and the young people it serves have always been near and dear to my heart. Thus, when I found out that YPT was hiring a Creative Programs Director, I jumped at the chance! This truly is a dream job for me, as it not only combines my two great loves—theater and education—but it also gives me a chance to make a difference in the lives of DC’s young people, every single day.
I am truly grateful to the YPT team for entrusting me with this mission, and to the YPT family for supporting this work for over 20 years. I cannot wait to meet the young playwrights of the 2015-16 In-School Playwriting Program, dive into our 2015-16 performance season and help plan exciting new collaborations with students and artists across DC and beyond! Stick around—it’s going to be a great year.
Again, it is a great honor to be a part of this terrific organization, and I look forward to accomplishing great things together. I hope to meet each and every one of you at our upcoming performances and events!
All my best,
Creative Programs Director,
Young Playwrights’ Theater