Three Cheers to Grace Playwright, Josie Walyus, Shares Her Experience of the Play’s Premiere


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Josie Walyus (center) at Three Cheers to Grace Opening Night Reception with (l-r) Three Cheers Director Eric Ruffin, YPT Founding Artistic Director Karen Zacarias and Artistic Director Farah Lawal Harris.

YPT’s first-ever production of a full-length student-written play, Three Cheers to Grace, came to a successful close March 3 after 12 performances seen by over 650 audience members. An amazing cast (Elenilson Ayala, Katie Rey Bogdan, Suzanne Edgar, Madelyn Farris, Stefanie Garcia, Mimsi Janis, Tre’Mon Mills, Naima Randolph, Sisi Reid, Karen Romero and Marlon Russ) directed by Eric Ruffin, brought Josie Walyus’ play to life in such a special way. Timothy J. Jones, Moyenda Kulemeka, Arnika Downey and Crescent Haynes made the world of Three Cheers to Grace blossom with excellent set design, costume design, lighting design and sound design, respectively.  

Thank you to the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts and everyone who supported YPT throughout this monumental undertaking!

YPT Communications Intern Kelly McDonnell sat down with playwright Josie who talked about her experience seeing her play make its way to production. Read more about Josie’s experience below!


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Josie Walys with the cast and creative team of Three Cheers to Grace

The stage lights dimmed, and, for a moment, the audience was silent, reliving the show they had just watched. Finally, instrumental music began playing, and the audience applauded and rose to their feet to praise the cast and the story of Three Cheers to Grace.

The world premiere of Three Cheers to Grace, YPT’s first production of a full-length, student-written play, has come to a close after an exciting two-week run at Dance Loft on 14.

Three Cheers to Grace was written by Josie Walyus, a sophomore at H-B Woodlawn. A story of two best friends grappling with trauma and friendship, the play was originally featured in the 2018 New Play Festival, and, at the time, was only produced as an excerpt of the amazing 90-minute show that has closed its successful run.

After Josie crafted and redrafted her play, with mentoring from YPT Artistic Director Farah Lawal Harris, her hard work paid off.

“It was just words on a page,” Josie said. “Then, when we were doing the production for two weeks, seeing it come to life was just huge.”

When she first saw the set, designed by Timothy L. Jones, Josie said she hadn’t imagined any of it, but she was amazed by how it all “fit so well.” She said she finally saw her words in a more realistic way by helping choose costumes and lighting for the show.

Following the opening night of Three Cheers to Grace, with the audience full of Josie’s family and friends, alongside long-time YPT supporters and new fans, YPT hosted an opening night reception to celebrate the artistic achievements of Josie, the production team and the cast.

“I was worried about how people I know would react to the show,” Josie said. “Seeing people I know feel so in touch with this play, I didn’t expect that. … I shouldn’t have been so worried.”

After seeing the show, Josie said her friends talked to her about their favorite scene or character. “We talk about that stuff with books and movies,” Josie said, “and now we’re doing it for something that was in my head.”

Audiences applauded the show and Josie’s ambition as a young playwright. One member of the audience said Josie’s play showed that “no matter how afraid we are, we have the power and voice to change our fear into courage.”

Approximately 300 DC students from six schools saw Three Cheers to Grace as well. Students said that the show was funny and inspirational and showed them how fun theater could be.

Overall, audiences encouraged Josie to keep writing.

In a review for DC Metro Theater Arts, John Stoltenberg praised Three Cheers to Grace’s interwoven characters and stories, the costume design by Moyenda Kulemeka, the sincerity and wisdom of Josie’s writing and much more.

Judging from the achievement of Three Cheers to Grace, Josie Walyus is going to have many more stories to tell and much more to say,” Stoltenberg wrote.

“Before this, I never thought of myself as a playwright,” Josie said. But now, she said, “This is what I want to do with my life, this is what I want to do more of.”

As part of Young Playwrights’ Guild, Josie will be debuting new writing with YPT at the end of this year. You can read John Stoltenberg’s DC Metro Theater Arts review here and visit our Facebook page for photo highlights.

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