YPT’s Top 10 of 2011

As we wrapped up another exciting year and wondered how it was already 2012, I read a lot of year-end lists. Albums, documentaries, political blunders, celebrity breakups… December was filled with lists meant to sum up the best (and worst) of the year. Well, how did YPT fare this past year? You decide! Here are YPT’s top 10 moments of 2011:

10. In 2011, YPT was thrilled to expand our programming and performances into Montgomery County, Maryland. In the spring, we received funding from the DIVAs Fund of the Montgomery County Community Foundation to bring our Express Tour into underserved Montgomery County middle schools, reaching over 1,000 at-risk youth with free performances and interactive workshops. We also expanded our After-School Playwriting Program into several community organizations, and served over 150 students at Long Branch Recreation Center in Montgomery County with our Summer Playwriting Program.

9. In the fall of 2011, YPT was selected to participate in the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ highly competitive UPSTART capacity building program for 2012. This competitive grant, which YPT also received in in 2007, is awarded to organizations that have demonstrated strong organizational and fiscal practices and could most benefit from intensive financial and technical assistance to develop new strategic initiatives and support core administrative systems and leadership development.

8. In the summer of 2011, YPT Producing Artistic Director and CEO David Snider was awarded the Hands On Greater DC Cares Essence of Leadership Award, which recognizes business leaders who are simultaneously working toward economic prosperity and transformative social change.

7. YPT lauched the Student Advisory Council to create an opportunity for continued dialogue with some of our most involved alumni, who offer invaluable inspiration and input about our programming and performances.

6. In recognition of the work of staff, artists, alumni and board members to further YPT’s mission, YPT launched our Company this past winter.

5. In November of 2011, YPT went international! YPT students spent a day at the Canadian Embassy creating cross-cultural theater with the students of Es Artes of Suchitoto, El Salvador! One student said of the experience, “We are all humans, we love theater, and we perform. Being a student and watching a barrier disintegrate was amazing. One of the students from Suchitoto said something close to, ‘I wanted to come here and I thought I would need English, but because of what we all believe in, I don’t have to.’ I guess actions do speak louder than words.”

4. The award-winning Young Playwrights’ Workshop was the only student ensemble to perform at the Capital Fringe Festival. With their original play, Out of the Shadow, the Workshop students took a stand for their peers across the country, presenting multiple perspectives and sharing important stories on the topic of bullying.

3. This past fall was YPT’s longest Express Tour, visiting 56 venues and giving thousands of students and community members their first theater experience.

2. The New Play Festival was bigger than ever with 15 plays over 3 nights. Featured plays were written by students at Bancroft Elementary School, Bell Multicultural High School, Lafayette Elementary School, Maya Angelou Public Charter School, Plummer Elementary School, Swanson Middle School, Watkins Elementary School and Wilson High School.

And the best part of 2011 for YPT? Drumroll please…

1. 2011 saw more plays written by YPT students than ever before! Our work in the classroom led to the creation of 700 new student-written plays. We are so excited to continue sharing them with you all this season!

Liza

Communications and Graphic Design Associate

Ready…Set…Give to the Max for YPT!

I grew up in the era of computers and technology. I order pizza online, take pictures with my phone and post them on Facebook, text instead of calling, and use Google as my go-to. But despite this, I sometimes still feel hopelessly behind the times, as technology, gadgets and social media continue to explode. Confession: when posting a recent update on YPT’s Twitter, I texted my Twitter-savvy younger sister asking about the difference between #something and @something. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up.

So I’m continually impressed by how businesses, non-profits and even the government have embraced this new era, finding innovative ways to use social media to their advantage and as a tool for positive action. And that’s why I am so excited about the gigantic community fundraising event happening TODAY, November 9, 2011, through the entire Greater Washington region.

Today, thousands of area residents are banding together to show their support for their favorite nonprofits during Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington. Give to the Max Day is a huge one-day online fundraising event that will unite Maryland, Virginia and DC communities to support local nonprofits through 24 hours of charitable giving. Give to the Max Day has the potential to raise $3 million for local charities, all online, within 24 hours.  That’s the power of the Internet for you.

Give to the Max Day is a truly a testament to how organizations can harness the power of social media as a force for positive change within an entire community, showing our local non-profits that even in these tough times, we are committed to supporting them. It’s all over Twitter, Facebook, websites, blogs and even DC buses. People are getting excited and organizations are harnessing this energy and building up their armies of support.

Here at YPT we are pumped up. We love social media, and we love our fans. You guys “like” our photos (even those crazy ones of the staff in our Halloween costumes), participate in YPTrivia and read about our achievements and student stories. We know we have the best online community of supporters in the region. Can we prove it to the rest of DC?

On November 9th, every online donation and donor we get through Give to the Max Day will help thousands of YPT students discover the power and value of their voices and stories through arts education. But we can only succeed with your help. Will you help YPT go to the top?

Give to the Max Day is happening RIGHT NOW. It’s going to be huge. How can YOU help?

  • Log on to YPT’s Give to the Max Giving Page NOW to make your contribution of $10 or more to YPT. Every dollar and every donor has an impact.
  • Share your support for Give to the Max and YPT on your social media pages and follow YPT on Facebook and Twitter for updates during the event. Be our champion, recruit your friends and cheer us to the top!
  • Then, sit back and celebrate with us, and know that you played a crucial role in helping us invest in the next generation of great American innovators — and prepare our amazing students for success.

And don’t forget to come to our Express Tour Showcase on MONDAY to see your contribution in action! All GTM donors will receive a special thanks in the program, and you’ll enjoy three hilarious and insightful students plays, along with the requisite yummy treats. November 14, 7:30pm, GALA Hispanic Theatre, FREE.

Okay, YPT friends. In the words of Supergirl, “It’s go time!”  Ready, set, GIVE!

Alison
Development and Producing Associate

The March of Makeshift

On July 23, 2011, the students of YPT’s Young Playwrights’ Workshop stopped by the Capital Fringe Festival to perform Out of the Shadow, their original play tackling the issue of bullying. You can read more about the Workshop here, and check out stories about the Fringe performance on WAMU 88.5 and ABC7/WJLA-TV.

In the powerful poem below, YPT student Josie Torres describes her experience collaborating with her fellow Workshop students over the past year to create Out of the Shadow.

The March of Makeshift

A place to those
who look for an existence
outside the normal.
These turquoise hearts
compliment the very sunset
that gave birth to us.
There was no sacrifice.
There was no agony.
There was no fallen hope.
In this atmosphere
of a lucid moon
only imagination can grow.
These wooden creaks
are the very sounds
of past wandering spirits.
An abundance of
philosophical and
embarrassing moments
is a method of how we stand strong
together on this stage.
The shadow
will not bare us down!
The passions of the sea
which is a representation
of our trustworthy bond,
grows into a tidal wave and
hits the shores of ignorance.
The souls that lingered on
these streets will not suffer
bitterness of others.
We dance uncaged.
We chose to be untamed
in dignity.
We do not know the
meaning of limits.
We thrive in beauty
and we murdered the beast!
I am marked
by a rose.
I have been signed
by a thread.
I have the emblem
of a long forgotten crest
of creativity,
of flare,
of intellect,
of eccentricity
and of love.
The cavern of skulls,
the brick wall,
and the barbed wires
will crumble down
and the sunlight
will show our path.

Josie Torres
YPT Young Playwright

The Fight for Equality: YPT Partners with SMYAL

On my way into work this morning, I listened to a call-in advice show on which a sixteen-year old girl from my home state asked for advice about a problem with her mom.  The girl had recently come out as gay, and her mother was threatening to stop paying for her private school, had forbidden her from coming out to anyone else, and had told her that her sexuality was “unnatural”.  The host of the show assured the caller that her mother would come to terms with the news and become more supportive, and even knowing how likely that is, the call still broke my heart.

The difficulties that openly gay youth face today have received much national attention over the last year or so, due in part to the seeming epidemic of suicides among gay teenagers in recent years.  While a number of amazing  projects  have dealt with the issue nationally, it is always refreshing to see local organizations responding as well.  The Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) is a DC nonprofit that has served lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth since long before it was trendy.

YPT was fortunate enough to work with SMYAL’s Youth Arts Ensemble this year to create an original play.  I had the honor of seeing this play when the students performed it at the Columbia Heights Community Center on June 23, 2011.

While SMYAL primarily deals with gay/gender rights, the students delved into a number of relevant issues.  Throughout a series of short vignettes, they examined matters of racial profiling, drug abuse and mental health, as well as homophobia, gay marriage and gender identity.  It was inspiring to see these talented students engaging in scenes that explored topics they clearly cared about wholly and passionately.  Even more wonderful was seeing the support they received from the community through both the amazing staff at SMYAL and the audience that had come to encourage them.  It is such a relief to know that any gay students in DC facing a reaction at home similar to the teenage girl I heard this morning have a place to go that not only accepts them, but also encourages them to share their stories with the world.

It is obvious that the fight for equality in America is far from over, but if the next generation is anything like the students I saw perform with SMYAL last month, I’d say we have a pretty impressive group leading the charge.

Be sure to check out another brave student performance when the students of YPT’s Young Playwrights’ Workshop present Out of the Shadow, their original play about bullying, at the Capital Fringe Festival next week.

Laurie
Program Associate

Vanessa Strickland: It Matters

Afternoons with Dad

One of my fondest collection of memories of the presence of art in my life was when I was in preschool.  By this age, I was already drawing with crayons on endless reams of paper, playing with stuffed animals and dolls as if they were real, and listening to all kinds of music, from opera to glam rock.  A huge influence for me artistically as I was growing up was my father.  He would show me classic movies, check out huge picture books with amazing illustrations, and have me watch and listen to ballets and operas.  This introduction to opera and ballet by my father is where my favorite memories stem from.

I learned, through my dad, about all the different stories that were told in operas.  When we had long afternoons together at home after preschool, my father and I would plop down on the floor by the stereo and he would explain to me the story as it played out over our living room speakers.  Through these afternoon activities, I learned about the love story between Prince Ziegfried and Odette in “Swan Lake”; I remember being in calmed by the soft sounds of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute;” and bouncing around the room when hearing the fervent strings of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.”  I would get so excited about these stories that I would carry them around with me, telling my friends at school about them and subsequently sitting them down in front of the TV whenever I could to have them watch these great tales.

These stories became so ingrained into me that my father and I would take on roles of the characters in these pieces and start acting out the scenes from the operas right in the middle of the living room.  He would play Grandpapa Drosselmeier and I would play Marie from “The Nutcracker,” or he would play Figaro and I would be Rosina in “The Barber of Seville.”  I’m sure at this point that this may have been the start of my fondness for live performance.

Twenty-three years later and I am a professional actor in the DC area.  I think back to these afternoons with my dad as having a huge impact on how I live my life in terms of how I think and feel, and also how I view the world.  His introducing me to classical music really gave me the confidence at other stages of my life to tell my own stories.  The exposure to art alone, and the motivation of wanting to teach a child about art and encourage them to explore it for themselves emboldens them to create their own art.

What’s your story? 🙂

Click here to learn more.

A young Vanessa dances.

Vanessa Strickland
YPT Actor

Click on the video below to watch Vanessa explain why she believes arts education matters for DC students.

Holly Taylor Petty: It Matters

Jen’s Story
*Student’s name changed to protect privacy

School can be a difficult place for students who don’t learn in the same way as the majority of their peers. I saw the pain first-hand when Jen, one of my sophomore dance students walked into my classroom. She was not physically handicapped, but I could see that she was so afraid to participate that she could hardly move at all. She would stand there paralyzed. Jen struggled in many of her regular education classes. I knew that school was a miserable experience for her, and I had a hard time knowing how to help her feel comfortable enough to participate. I began to see Jen open up a little bit when I assigned her and a couple of other classmates to work with a severe special needs student. She was so caring and gentle. Through helping someone else discover the art of dance, Jen realized that she had something to offer the world. When I talked to her at the end of the year she was so excited about her plans for registering for more dance classes her junior year. I heard later from her resource specialist that dance had made all the difference for Jen’s confidence. I saw first-hand how the arts helped Jen recognize that she had worth and that is more rewarding than all of the perfect test scores I graded combined.

Click here to learn how you can help keep the arts in DC schools.

Holly Taylor Petty with Her Daughter

Holly Taylor Petty
YPT Community Member

Holly Taylor Petty focused her arts education on dance and violin. She earned a BA in Dance Education and is a certified Suzuki violin instructor. Holly taught dance I, dance II and dance company at Payson High School in Utah until last year, when she moved to Washington DC. She became a mommy 9 months ago and is loving staying at home with her daughter, while teaching private violin lessons part-time, as well as taking dance lessons. She is currently involved with a nonprofit organization called Artist Interrupted, which helps female artists balance the performing arts with everyday family demands.