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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Three Cheeers Opening Night Reception-8126 (tpowell@yptdc.org)
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.

YPT is awarded the 2018 Mayor’s Arts Award in Excellence in Education

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YPT Artistic Director Farah Lawal Harris accepting the award.

On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities hosted its 33rd Annual Mayor’s Arts Awards, an event that celebrates excellence in DC arts across all disciplines. This year, the DC Commission also celebrated its 50th anniversary. The elegant and fun event, hosted by native Washingtonian and film/television actor Lamman Rucker, included the honoring of legendary DC Go-Go Band Rare Essence for lifetime achievement and Step Afrika! founder Brian Williams with this year’s Visionary Leader Award.

Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT) was thrilled to receive the 2018 Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Arts Education recognizing our positive impact on District residents across the city through arts education. YPT Artistic Director Farah Lawal Harris accepted the award on behalf of YPT, thanking the Mayor and the Commission for their support and sharing our belief that our students are brilliant and encouraging people to come and see upcoming performances to see for themselves. This is YPT’s second time receiving the city’s highest award for an organization of our kind, having received it previously in 2006!

YPT is truly proud to be recognized for excellence in arts education and thanks the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and Mayor Muriel Bowser for the incredible honor. YPT will continue to fulfill its mission to help students realize the power of their own voices with excellent programming and professionally produced platforms for young writers and creators to share their inherently brilliant selves with the world!

A YPT wedding!

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Reyna and Edwin’s engagement photo! Photo by Samuel Diaz.

“Don’t be afraid to share yourself with someone. Love doesn’t grow on its own … it takes two people to teach it to one another.”
– Reyna Rios

In the fall of 2010, two standout students from YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program at Bell Multicultural High School joined our Young Playwrights’ Workshop. Both had written terrific, touching plays, and both were excited to develop their artistic talents. But each had an ulterior motive, too: to explore their feelings for each other.

“We met in AP Spanish class,” Reyna Rios explains. “I was shy and sat at the back of the class, hoping to not be noticed. Yet, Edwin saw me.”

“The teacher told us to find a partner to share our story with,” Edwin Martinez continues. “I immediately turned towards Reyna and asked if she would be my partner. Little did we both know that was the start of something special in our lives.”

After Reyna took our In-School Program, she loved it so much that she decided to join the Workshop. She invited Edwin to join with her, and he readily accepted. Soon, the two established themselves as core members of the ensemble: setting the tone with their energy and commitment, and pouring their spirits of kindness and respect into the beautiful anti-bullying play, Out of the Shadow.

“That’s when the liking [Edwin] turned into loving him,” Reyna explains. “We would go to the Workshop, and we would see this whole other side of each other: the creative, fearless, passionate, and most times silly side.”

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Edwin (bottom L) and Reyna (top R) in their first Young Playwrights’ Workshop!

After Workshop hours, the two teens’ love deepened. Edwin would escort Reyna home on the Metro, “[just] to spend as much time with her … as I could,” then turn around and head back to his own stop. On these train rides, they discovered a mutual love of self-expression, social justice and youth work.

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“I feel like I can contribute a lot,” Reyna said.

“I want to help … people younger than I am to choose a better path,” said Edwin.

Their eyes met, and they smiled.

Thus began a relationship that has captivated all who know and admire Edwin and Reyna. The two began dating in October, 2010, and have been going steady since then. In that time, they have gone to college, volunteered with YPT and Higher Achievement, worked as teachers and community organizers and given back daily to their communities.

Reyna is now the Program Administrator at Big Learning, a nonprofit that “operate[s] instructional programs in language, sciences, and creative enrichment for elementary and middle school students in Montgomery County, Maryland.” Edwin works in Web Operations for National Geographic, and does side projects “in hopes of building something better in the future.” They also continue to be terrific ambassadors for YPT, speaking at our 2013 and 2014 galas about the impact of our work in their lives!

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Edwin accepts the Tornado Boy Award for Super Awesome Alumnus at our 2014 gala!

Recently, the YPT family started wondering how long it would be until these two young leaders tied the knot. Then, in November, 2016, we got the news: they were engaged! We were over the moon with joy for our beloved friends. But the news only got better from there: they were going to get married in December in the Josephine Butler Parks Center, one floor beneath our office!

“[The] Parks Center [is] where we were able to think creatively with one another,” says Edwin, “a gateway of expression to the public and into ourselves at a personal level.”

“[It’s] the perfect place for our love to be sealed,” Reyna continues. “It’s YPT’s home!”

We can’t wait to be there – in person or in spirit – when Edwin and Reyna knit their lives together forever. As far as we know, this is the first marriage to begin in a YPT workshop, and we couldn’t have wished it for two better people!

We love you, Reyna Rios and Edwin Martinez, and we wish you all the joy and happiness in our hearts. We know that you will continue to strive for social change, and will impact more lives than we can ever imagine. Look out, world, the power couple is coming! As Reyna says: “Together, we can do anything.”

Congratulations, Edwin and Reyna! Best of luck to you both!

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Dachauna Johnson – Promising Playwright, June 2016

Note: Every month, YPT features one standout young playwright in a piece called Promising Playwrights. We usually post those pieces on our website; however, our web hosts are dealing with technical difficulties right now, and we cannot publish any new content. Therefore, we decided to post this month’s feature on our blog! Enjoy this article, and visit yptdc.org/People/Promising for more!

Dachauna Johnson

“Believe in your dreams and … try out new things: you may find something you never thought you could do.”

Dachauna Johnson doesn’t advertise her many talents: she just lets them shine through in her life. The day after the incoming McKinley Tech ninth grader performed in The Young Playwrights’ Workshop Presents: Who Am I? Who Are You?, she stood up at Cardozo Education Campus’s eighth grade graduation—to give the valedictorian speech.

“I was pretty nervous,” she says, adding that her experience in the Young Playwrights’ Workshop helped her manage her stage fright. Her nerves were ratcheted up even more later in the ceremony, when she and her friend sang “I Believe I Can Fly”—before the school gave Dachauna its Music Award.

Dachauna’s talents come as no surprise to anyone who knows her. The soft-spoken, intelligent teen shows a deep understanding of the world and the human experience. Her favorite subject is science, and she already plans to pursue it in college and beyond. “I like how it ties into life and how it began,” she says.

In the Workshop, too, Dachauna saw the characters her peers were creating and devised hers as a foil to them. “Their characters were all down, so I was thinking about making the opposite, making a more ‘up’ person.” Though her character, Veronica, is very different from her, Dachauna thought through Veronica’s “past, her present and the way she carries herself,” and captured her peppiness and underlying vulnerability beautifully in Who Am I? Who Are You?.

Dachauna Johnson in YPW Photo Shoot

Despite her creative prowess, until recently Dachauna did not think of herself as a writer. “[Before YPT] I did not like writing at all … it wasn’t really my thing,” she says. “[Now,] I feel like I’ve been good at writing my whole life!

Though Dachauna is not yet sure whether she will be able to return to the Workshop, she’ll carry YPT’s lessons with her forever. “YPT helps a lot and guides you,” she reflects. We hope to see Dachauna again, and know that her talents will guide her to great heights!

The 2016 New Play Festival – Playwright Speeches

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YPT’s 2016 New Play Festival featured fifteen hilarious, touching, charming and empowering plays written by young playwrights from across the DC area. From stories of time travel and magical homework to dance-offs and basketball showdowns, these fifteen plays shared the powerful voices of some of DC’s most exciting young artists!

Before the performance of their play, each playwright spoke to the crowd about their work, their dreams and their advice for other young playwrights. Their speeches were so inspiring that we decided to share them all with you in their entirety! 

Read on and enjoy!


NPF 2016 Night One Postcard FINAL FRONT

The 2016 New Play Festival – Night One
Monday, April 11, 2016
7pm
GALA Hispanic Theatre
Elementary School Plays


 

NPF 2016 Night One-578Wesley Hoy, Playwright,
Arrowstone in Woodland

My name is Wesley Hoy, and my play is called Arrowstone in Woodland. I am in the 4th grade at Bancroft Elementary School. The hardest part of writing it was coming up with ideas. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is that you should think before you write. I hope that in the future I will write another play. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is to play with my friends, and one thing that might surprise people is that I don’t like hot dogs. If I could change the world, I would want everyone to recycle. Now I hope that you enjoy my play, Arrowstone in Woodland.


NPF 2016 Night One-619Martina Mendoza, Playwright,
To Light Village We Go!

My name is Martina Mendoza, and my play is called To Light Village We Go! I am in the 5th grade at Harriet Tubman Elementary School. I got the idea for this play from when me and my best friend, Harmony, both wanted the same thing in 2nd grade. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is watch movies with my sisters. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: be creative. I hope that audiences who see my play will enjoy it, and see that you don’t always have to start out as friends with the people around you, but you can become friends later. I hope that in the future I am successful as a teacher. And now, please enjoy my play, To Light Village We Go!
NPF 2016 Night One-647Aarionna Thomas, Playwright,
The Two Parents

My name is Aarionna Thomas and my play is called The Two Parents. I am in the 5th grade at Orr Elementary School, and when I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is write, sing, dance, and watch TV. I hope that audiences who see my play will love it and want me to write another one. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: keep working hard and write what’s on your mind. I hope that in the future I will be a great writer. So please sit back and enjoy my play, The Two Parents.


NPF 2016 Night One-669Branaya Reese Brown, Playwright,
Mr. Rawr and the Kitty

My name is Branaya Reese Brown, and my play is called Mr. Rawr and the Kitty. I am in the 5th grade, and wrote this play when I was at Watkins Elementary School. I got the idea for this play from my imagination and a drawing I made. The hardest part of writing it was turning my drawing into a play. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: find something you like and write about it! I love animals, and one thing about me that might surprise people is that I can tell facts about over 100 animals. I hope that in the future I work at a zoo filled with animals, and if I were elected President, I would demand all animal-related books be sent to me. I hope that my play makes you laugh and smile, so please enjoy Mr. Rawr and the Kitty.
NPF 2016 Night One-706Talayia Richardson, Playwright,
God and Gabriel
My name is Talayia Richardson, and my play is called God and Gabriel. I am in the 5th grade at Wheatley Education Campus. I got the idea for this play from church, and a picture at another program. The hardest part of writing it was figuring out how to explain how God and Gabriel had a misunderstanding. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is to have good grammar and feel like you are in the audience and ask yourself questions about the play. I hope that in the future I will be rich and make plays and perform them in public. If I were elected President, I would give everybody the chance to vote and would give everybody a million dollars. Now I hope that enjoy and like my play, God and Gabriel.
NPF 2016 Night One-735Maddie Salunga, Playwright,
The Time Trap
My name is Maddie Salunga, and my play is called The Time Trap. I am in the 5th grade at Watkins Elementary School. I got the idea for this play from when my grandfather had skin cancer. I hope that audiences who see my play will enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed writing it. One thing about me that might surprise people is that even though I am athletic and am tough, I like being female. I also really like science and the outdoors. I hope that in the future there will be more cures for more illnesses. I would like to thank Ms. Joan, who came to our class and helped us out. This play is dedicated to my family and friends, but specifically my grandfather. Thank you, and please enjoy my play, The Time Trap.


NPF 2016 Night Two Postcard FINAL

The 2016 New Play Festival – Night Two
Monday, April 18, 2016
7pm
Anacostia Playhouse
High School Plays

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Jarid Shields, Playwright, (Room)

My name is Jarid Shields and my play is called (Room). I am in the 12th grade at Eastern High School. My advice to other young people writing a play is: just write what you think is important or whatever you find interesting or funny. No idea is a bad idea. One thing about me that might surprise people is that I didn’t really consider myself a good writer; however, through this process, I have gained more confidence in my capabilities. I hope that audiences who see my play will gain a better understanding of the difficulties that people with illnesses and disorders, whether mental or physical, have to go through. I hope that in the future we can all be more sympathetic towards one another and be a little less quick to judge and stigmatize. Thank you, and please enjoy my play, (Room).

 

NPF 2016 Night Two-900Rachael Brock, Playwright, School

My name is Rachael and my play is called School.  I’m in the 10th grade at Anacostia High School.  I got the idea for my play from my brain—I have an overactive imagination.  The hardest part of writing was that I wrote a play and it was 38 pages long, so they had to cut it short. That broke my heart.  I hope that the audience, who see my play will love it and give good and bad feedback to know what I should strengthen for next time.  My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is to do it and always use imagination.  Don’t let no one bring you down.  One thing about me that might surprise people is I’m talkative and very playful.  When I have a free afternoon, my favorite thing to do is read and write.  I hope in the future that I’ll never stop reading, and if I were elected president, I would demand everyone to read.  Writing is fundamental.

 

NPF 2016 Night Two-933Ronald Coe III, Playwright, Ron Vs. The Living Homework

My name is Ronald Coe and my play is called Ron vs. the Living Homework. The hardest part of writing it was making the homework come to life. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: never give up. Keep striving to reach your goal. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is to play video games and listen to music.  I hope that in the future people learn that being mad is going to get you nowhere in life. So now I hope that you laugh and enjoy my play, Ron vs. the Living Homework.

 

NPF 2016 Night Two-973Nomin Ganmend, Playwright, Twins

My name is Nomin Ganmend and my play is called Twins. I am in the 12th grade at Wakefield High School. I hope that audiences who see my play will understand that no matter what happens, you should support your partner. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is to think about real life and show people what they should do to deal with their problems. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is crafting. I like to do and create new things. I hope that in the future I finish college and get the career I want. So now, please enjoy my play, Twins.


NPF 2016 Night Three Postcard FINAL FRONT

The 2016 New Play Festival – Night Three
Monday, April 25, 2016

7pm
Logan Fringe Arts Space
Elementary and Middle School Plays

Nafisa Weeks Headshot

Nafisa Weeks, Playwright, Living the Dream

My name is Nafisa Weeks and my play is called Living the Dream. I am in the 7th grade at Eliot-Hine Middle School. I got the idea for this play from my dream of becoming a CEO. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: use your imagination. One thing about me that might surprise people is that I like to do adventurous and extreme things such as cliff diving and sky diving. These are things I want to try. I hope that in the future I will be able to look back at all my achievements, and if I were elected President, I would make the world a better place. Now I hope that you will be amazed by my play, Living the Dream.

 

Alice Hockstader Headshot squareAlice Hockstader, Playwright, A Mortal in an Immortal Land

My name is Alice Hockstader and my play is called A Mortal in an Immortal Land. I am in the 7th grade at The Lab School of Washington. I got the idea for this play from Greek Mythology and the Percy Jackson series. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is read books, and one thing that might surprise people is that I make stories from nothing all the time. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: do something you know a lot about. I hope that in the future I will be a professor of Greek Mythology, and if I were elected President I would make more National Parks and help conserve animals. Now I hope you enjoy my play, A Mortal in an Immortal Land.

 

Marisa Poe Headshot squareMarisa Poe, Playwright, The Basketball Duel

My name is Marisa Poe and my play is called The Basketball Duel. I am in the 6th grade at Maret School. I got the idea for this play from my love for basketball. I realized how unequal the salaries between men and women professional basketball players are, and wanted to spread the word. I hope that audiences who see my play will understand how unjust the salary differences are and try to make a difference. The hardest part of writing this was probably just starting it. Once I began, though, it became hard to stop. My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is to write about something you care about, and have fun with it! I hope that in the future these salary differences between men and women will change and women will get equal pay for equal work. Thank you, and please enjoy my play, The Basketball Duel.

 

Sierra Morris Headshot squareSierra Morris, Playwright, Show Your Moves

My name is Sierra Morris and my play is called Show Your Moves! I am in the 5th grade at Moten Elementary School. When I have a free afternoon my favorite thing to do is call my friends, go outside, and dance.  My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is: don’t be afraid to show your talent in your plays, because it can probably kick off your future dream. I want someone to see my play and say, “That’s wonderful that a 12 year old black girl is taking her life seriously, and that she wants to do and be something that she wants to do.” If I were elected President, I would stop gun violence and stop the hate of other people, and stop having people live on the street. I hope that in the future me and my family and friends will have a better life and live our dreams. So now please enjoy my play, Show Your Moves!

 

Kreshaun Brooks HeadshotKreshaun Brooks, Playwright, Bob’s Halloween

My name is Kreshaun Brooks and my play is called Bob’s Halloween. I am in the 5th grade at Moten Elementary School. One thing about me that might surprise people is that this is my first time writing a play or anything close to a play. I hope that audiences who see my play will laugh so hard that they jump out of their seats and fly through the roof! My advice to other young people who are interested in writing a play is to write whatever you think the audience will love, and they will love it even more than you thought. I hope that in the future everyone’s house is made of candy and robots make ice cream sundaes for everyone. So now I hope you laugh your pants off and enjoy my play, Bob’s Halloween.

 

Congrats to all our 2016 New Play Festival playwrights! We’re so proud of you!

NPF 2016 Kickoff Party-469

Top Ten Hero Moments of 2015

Cristian Daly PP photoAt the end of every year, we here at YPT like to count down the top ten most memorable moments of the year that was. This year, in our continuing celebration of YPT heroes, we decided to honor the Top Ten Hero Moments of 2015! These are moments big and small, when members of the YPT family acted heroically or honored the heroes who inspire them.

Want to be a #YPThero? There’s still time! Donate to YPT by December 31 and help over 2,000 DC-area young people realize the power of their voices next year.

 

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Thank you, and enjoy the countdown!

 


 

 

 

  1. YPT Students and Theater Artists Speak Out at Silence Is Violence: A #BlackLivesMatter Event

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YPT’s first event of the year was also one of our most powerful: Silence Is Violence: a #BlackLivesMatter Event. Held in the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement, this pop-up performance brought local students together with professional theater artists for a night of creative responses to the movement. In front of a capacity crowd at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, these artists shared their profound, sometimes tragic and often uplifting feelings about racism and police brutality in America. The night ended with a space for community reflection and art-making!

Thank you to all the YPT heroes who shared their voices at Silence Is Violence: a #BlackLivesMatter Event! For more, visit silenceisviolencedc.tumblr.com.

SIV collage for Top 10 post

 


 

  1. Evan Alston Donates His Allowance at YPT’s 20th Anniversary Gala

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Giving Back to the Future: YPT’s 20th Anniversary Giving Voice Award Gala was an event for the ages. Honoring NPR’s Diane Rehm, this Back to the Future-themed celebration brought DC philanthropists, theater artists and student playwrights together at The National Press Club for a night of eating and drinking, dancing and supporting young voices!

Evan Alston gala auction croppedThough Diane Rehm touched us all with her inspiring words, the night’s true hero was Evan Alston, a fifth-grade student at E.W. Stokes PCS. After reading an original poem he wrote about YPT, Evan donated his very own money to YPT at the live auction! That’s the mark of a true #YPThero!

YPT’s 2016 Giving Voice Award Gala is Saturday, March 12, 2016, at the North Hall at Eastern Market! Honoring Shakespeare Theatre Co. Artistic Director Michael Kahn, the gala promises to be as exciting and fun as the last three.

Tickets are now on sale: buy them online at yptdc.org/GetInvolved/GivingVoiceGala/!

Gala pics from AR

 


 

  1. YPT Playwright Ja’Neza Honors Her Heroic Brother at the 2015 New Play Festival

NPF 2015 Group A-434Among the many magical moments we saw at the 2015 New Play Festival, perhaps the most touching was seeing elementary school playwright Ja’Neza Andrews-Washington honor her serviceman brother through her play.

Ja’Neza’s play, The Confusion of Being in the Army, is based off her brother’s experiences leaving home for Army boot camp. Her brother came to the performance and seemed to truly cherish his little sister’s tribute!

NPF 2015 Group A-214

NPF 2015 Group A-555Click here for information on YPT’s 2016 New Play Festival, which will be unlike any we have ever held before! Taking place over three weeks at three theaters around DC, the 2016 Festival will engage the larger community in exciting and innovative ways.

Join us April 11, 18 and 25, 2016 for the new-look New Play Festival!

 


 

  1. YPT Hero Dominique Butler Shines at the Curious New Voices National Collective

Dominique Butler cutoutJust before the 2015 New Play Festival, YPT received an exciting email from Curious Theatre Company in Denver, CO. Their Curious New Voices National Collective, a week-long summer intensive for promising teen playwrights, was set to begin, and they wanted a YPT playwright to attend! We invited Cardozo High School student Dominique Butler, whose stirring play we were producing in the Festival, and who had expressed an interest in continuing his playwriting education.

Dominique flew to Denver (his first time on a plane!) and wrote a powerful Black Lives Matter play called Who’s Next? The play, which follows three young black men (including Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin) through a trying encounter with a policeman, received a standing ovation at the intensive’s final showcase! As Curious New Voices leader Deb Covington wrote to us, “[The audience] had no idea his piece, at once political and personal, was there to shake up the world.”

DB and playwrights onstage   Who's Next Reading-16

Click here for photos from a recent reading of Who’s Next? at Cardozo, and stay tuned for more on the play in the new year!

 


 

  1. YPT says goodbye to one staff hero and hello to another!

Welcome Thembi-46In August, YPT entered into a time of exciting transition, as long-time Artistic Director Nicole Jost left to pursue her MFA in Playwriting and we welcomed DC theater veteran Thembi Duncan onto our team as Creative Programs Director! Since joining YPT, Thembi has led her first in-school playwriting workshop and produced her first YPT staged reading: Girls Write Out!, our entry into the Women’s Voices Theater Festival!

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To rally the DC theater community around young women’s voices, Thembi also began our “What Happens When?” video campaign, getting contributions from across America—including one from Nicole, who remains a dear member of the YPT family all the way from San Francisco!

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Compilation video: What happens when a young person realizes the power of her voice?

Celebrate the heroes who dedicate themselves to the arts: donate to YPT in honor of a staff member or theater artist!

 


 

  1. YPT Students Tackle Mental Health and Gun Violence in Original Plays

YPW 2015 Performance-28.jpgThe dedicated young artists of YPT’s Young Playwrights’ Workshop  and Student Advisory Council are used to taking on serious subjects in their work, but 2015 saw them tackle perhaps their most delicate issues yet: mental health and gun violence.

The Young Playwrights’ Workshop’s 2015 original play, The Art of Understanding, delved into perceptions of mental illness through three powerful vignettes woven together with poetry and personal reflection. Written and performed by the Workshop’s teen artists, The Art of Understanding wowed the packed house at the Source Festival in June!

_MG_2440In the fall of 2015, the artist-advocates of YPT’s Student Advisory Council contributed to a landmark event: the DC premiere of gun control play One in the Chamber. Council members wrote short plays in response to One in the Chamber, and two were chosen for a professional staged reading that followed the show’s closing performance on September 6. Congratulations to the current and former Council members who wrote such powerful, complex pieces!

The Workshop and Council will be back with more performances in 2016: click here for the dates, and mark your calendars now!

 


 

  1. YPT Staff, Board and Volunteers Team Up to Clean Up Tubman Elementary School

Tubman Beaut Day 2015-4.jpgTwo days before the 2015-2016 school year began, YPT staff and volunteers—including a great team from Acumen Solutions—met at YPT partner school Tubman Elementary School, to help get the campus ready for students to arrive. From spreading mulch in the garden to decorating display cases, the YPT family banded together to make Tubman an even more delightful place to learn. After the volunteer event, many gathered at Pete’s Apizza for a pizza party fundraiser supporting our work!

Tubman Beaut Day 2015-8In the two years since it began, YPT’s partnership with Tubman has grown so close that we recently decided to adopt the school, through DCPS’s Adopt-a-School program. Since the beautification event, we have assisted Tubman in improving their assemblies, and held a holiday clothing drive to support their homeless and low-income students! We look forward to many more years of partnership with Tubman.

Thank you to YPT’s amazing volunteers and corporate sponsors for supporting our work and ongoing partnerships!

Tubman Beaut Day 2015-21

 


 

  1. YPT serves over 1,500 students with playwriting programming in 2015!

Tubman2014-182_croppedYPT is proud and humbled to have served over 1,500 DC-area students with playwriting programming in 2015. Between our In-School Playwriting Program and Summer Playwriting Program, we reached young people ages 8-18 in all eight wards of DC, Northern Virginia and Maryland!

Guided by our Dream Impact Map, in 2015 YPT continued to expand our programming in Wards 1, 7 and 8, where students have the least access to arts education. With a larger presence in high-need schools like Cardozo Education Campus and Anacostia High School, and new partnerships at Wheatley Education Campus, Kramer Middle School and more, YPT is poised to make a deep, lasting impact in the DC neighborhoods that can most benefit from our services!

Help YPT serve even more young artists in 2016: make a tax-deductible donation today!

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  1. DC Theater Rallies for Young Women’s Voices at Girls Write Out!

GWO-317YPT’s 2015-2016 performance season began with a bang, as Girls Write Out! packed the house at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Hall!

Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, Girls Write Out! featured the powerful voices of four young female playwrights. From the hilarious to the tragic, their words resounded through the DC theater professionals who brought them to life onstage! The performance concluded with a wonderful playwright talkback, led by YPT founder Karen Zacarías.

Leading up to Girls Write Out!, some of the most celebrated women in the DC theater community contributed to our “What Happens When?” video series, sharing their thoughts on what happens when a girl realizes the power of her voice. Even Shakespeare Theatre Co. GWO-70Artistic Director Michael Kahn, YPT’s 2016 Giving Voice awardee, got in on the action, delivering a powerful address before the show!

In the words of one Girls Write Out! playwright: “The ladies overall take power.”

 


 

 

  1. YPT heroes help SAVE arts education during Hero Week!

Hero Week TY ImageIn the wake of Girls Write Out!, YPT realized just how many amazing heroes we have in our lives: our students, our teaching artists and actors, our Board of Directors, our volunteers and the entire YPT family. In honor of those heroes, we launched Hero Week, a celebration of the heroes our young artists create and the heroes who make YPT great!

Our goal for Hero Week was to raise $5,000 to support our students in 2016. Instead, thanks to the over 125 YPT heroes who donated that week, we raised nearly $6,500! With a match grant from the Cafritz Foundation, that money immediately doubled to over $10,000.

But we’re not done yet: our goal is to raise $25,000 by the end of 2015, with every dollar going directly into the classroom. Click here to donate, and help bring a young person’s voice to life in the new year!

Thank you, YPT heroes! We love you all!

Hero Frames Gif

YPT Preview: GIRLS WRITE OUT!

GWO img w WVTF & YPT logosYPT Presents: Girls Write Out!

Monday, October 19
6:30pm reception / 7pm performance
The Forum in Sidney Harman Hall
FREE and open to the public
Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival

Click here to reserve your seats!

YPT’s 2015-2016 performance season begins with Girls Write Out!, a FREE, one-night-only staged reading of four plays and monologues written by young female playwrights. Professional actors bring to life tales of magic bracelets, superhero sisters, evil queens and more!

Featured plays include:

Neveah New Play Fest headshot
Diamond of Destiny, by Nevaeh Edwards
Stuck in a Fairy Tale, by Nora Foster
Stuck in a Fairy Tale, by Nora Foster
The Magic Bracelet, by Carmela Pascale
The Magic Bracelet, by Carmela Pascale
Wish for Light, by Anderson Waltz
Wish for Light,
by Anderson Waltz

With monologues by:

Kaitlyn Murphy
Kaitlyn Murphy
Mariana Pavón Sánchez
Mariana Pavón Sánchez
Helen Villegas
Helen Villegas
Amber Faith Walton
Amber Faith Walton

Each of these playwrights wrote her piece in YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program. Ranging in age from 12-22 years old, they are among the youngest playwrights featured at the Women’s Voices Theater Festival!

After the performance, YPT Founding Artistic Director Karen Zacarías will lead an engaging talkback with the playwrights. Karen is a resident playwright at Arena Stage, and her play, Destiny of Desire, is Arena’s contribution to the Festival!

YPT will also be making a special announcement at Girls Write Out!, so join us and hear the good news!

Click here to RSVP to Girls Write Out!, and reserve your (free) tickets in advance here.

For more on the featured playwrights and plays, read on!


Diamond of Destiny, by Nevaeh Edwards Apr 28-128

KRYSTAL: My daughters who have betrayed me … Come out, come out! I said come out now. Don’t be afraid Laura, Lauren, Lauriann, Lauribell and Laurie. You should love me, I’m your mother. So come out NOW.

LAURA: We’ve come out to battle you!

KRYSTAL: Really? Battle your powerful mommy?

LAURA: Come on girls. It’s time!

Nevaeh Edwards’ Diamond of Destiny pits five sisters from the planets Lexaton and Vertex against their evil mother in a fight for the fate of Earth. Full of action, adventure and fun, this is one serious family feud!

Nevaeh is in seventh grade in Washington, DC. She wrote Diamond of Destiny while in fifth grade at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. Read more about Nevaeh here!


Stuck in a Fairy Tale, by Nora Foster

SIFT 7

ALEX: Hello? Is anyone there?

RAPUNZEL: (Astonished)  Who is it?! I’m here! Don’t leave! Stay! Just-just… wait a moment!

ALEX: Okay… I’ll wait.

RAPUNZEL: Um, this might sound odd, but I’d like it if you would just climb up my… rope. Yes, rope. It might look weird, but no need to worry, just climb as best you can.

In Nora Foster’s Stuck in a Fairy Tale, teenage author Alex falls asleep and wakes up in a strange and fantastical land! Before she goes, she teaches Cinderella and company a few things about being a 21st century teenager.

Nora is a student at Yorktown High School in Arlington, VA. She wrote her play while in seventh grade at Swanson Middle School.


The Magic Bracelet, by Carmela Pascale

TMB 3

ELOISE: …You see this bracelet, wait, donde esta?! (Sees it on the floor.) Oh what a relief! Jakey estas bien? (Cuddles with bracelet. Pause.) Oh you think…? No No No No No Jake turn human K?

(ELOISE throws bracelet to a side. Poof!)

JAKE: (Offstage) Oh Elly!

(ELOISE and JAKE hug.)

JAKE: Oh Elly, you’re my best friend. I’m so happy I’m with you.

ELOISE: Oh. Um. This is my bracelet…boyfriend. Bracelet-boyfriend. Bracelet-boyfriend. OK let’s say he’s a magical bracelet who just happens to be my boyfriend.

Carmela Pascale’s The Magic Bracelet tells the tale of Eloise, a young bilingual girl picked on by a group of bullies. With the help of her magic bracelet, she turns the tides on the bullies and teaches them a lesson they’ll never forget!

Carmela is in ninth grade at Bell Multicultural High School, and is a member of YPT’s Student Advisory Council. She wrote The Magic Bracelet while in fifth grade at Bancroft Elementary School.


Wish for Light, by Anderson Waltz

NPF 2015 Group A - Sun

LAUREN: Hullo yer Majesty, what do you need?

QUEEN: Are you Lauren?

LAUREN: (Sarcastically) Um… I think so.

QUEEN: Not funny dear. Now, child, I read your letter, and it’s very, interesting… And I have many questions for you to answer for me.

LAUREN: Like, what questions?

QUEEN: First off, why do you want me to change?!

LAUREN: Well—

QUEEN: I mean, isn’t it perfect here? Don’t answer me, because it is.

In Anderson Waltz’s Wish for Light, the selfish Queen has gotten rid of the Sun. Can clever Lauren convince her to bring it back again? Find out in the WORLD PREMIERE of Wish for Light!

Anderson is a middle school student in Washington, DC. She wrote Wish for Light while in fifth grade at Watkins Elementary School.

Join YPT for professional staged readings of all these plays and more…

Monday, October 19 at Sidney Harman Hall!