April Pizza Adventures Part IV: RedRocks Pizzeria

We did it!  A huge thank you to everyone who participated in our pizza party fundraising marathon this April. We had a great time exploring local pizza joints, raising money for the New Play Festival, and sampling all kinds of pizza.

On Wednesday, April 18, RedRocks Pizzeria in Columbia Heights very generously agreed to donate 30% of their happy hour proceeds to YPT, so Wednesday evening I took a break from all the exciting preparations leading up to the New Play Festival (opening on Monday!) and headed over to RedRocks. The cozy pizza restaurant is located in a converted row house just a few blocks from the Columbia Heights metro, and it was a welcome shelter from the cold, wet Wednesday evening. I found families and young professionals alike enjoying RedRocks neopolitan-style thin crust pizzas and after-work specials.

Highlights:

  • $6.50 margarita pizzas during happy hour. And these pizzas weren’t small– you could easily eat your fill and still have leftovers for lunch the next day.
  • The cozy atmosphere, especially on a gray, rainy evening in the middle of the week.
  • While I did not sample the calzones this visit (also a happy hour special), I caught a glimpse, and they looked delicious – and huge!
  • Thin crust European-style pizza. Although I love all kinds of pizza, I must say this is my favorite.
  • How friendly and accommodating the staff was as people came and went from our YPT pizza party – they even extended their happy hour specials until 8pm.
  • And of course, how awesome RedRocks is for hosting our final YPT pizza party!

Overall, RedRocks is a perfect neighborhood restaurant if you’re in the Columbia Heights area and craving delicious, restaurant-style pizza in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. I’m sure I and the other members of the YPT staff will be back.

So my journey has come to an end.  While it may be awhile before I’m hungry for pizza again (maybe by the next New Play Festival), I’ve had a great time discovering local pizza joints and making new friends in the community. I’m so impressed by how generous our local businesses are, and I want to thank them all – Pete’s Apizza, Flippin’ Pizza, HomeMade Pizza Company and RedRocks Pizzeria – for supporting YPT, our New Play Festival, and our amazing students.

And of course, a big thank you to YOU, our amazing supporters, for participating in our events and following my adventures (and a special shout-out to my roommate and YPT enthusiast Ashley, who participated in three out of our four fundraisers and even brought a crowd of friends to RedRocks – with only minimal pressure from me!)

How many pizza places did you visit in April?  Share you photos, or your stories on our Facebook page – we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Next up: The New Play Festival!  Now that we’ve raised all the dough (haha), join us on Monday, April 23, and Tuesday, April 24, at 7:30pm, at GALA Hispanic Theatre, to celebrate the achievements of twelve incredible young playwrights. Monday features seven hilarious, family-friendly plays written by some of our younger students, while Tuesday features five plays insightfully exploring more mature issues written by some of our older students. Join us at 7pm on both nights for a special pre-show reception with food and drink.  And I promise … no pizza.

Thank you, as always, for your support. We can’t wait to see you next week.  In the meantime, I’m off to the gym!

Alison
Development and Producing Associate

Celebrating a Season of New Plays

In 2011, YPT students wrote more than 700 new plays. That’s a staggering number! And just like literary managers at theaters across the country, we’re overwhelmed with more amazing work than we could possibly put on stage.

That’s why we send actors directly into the classroom, so all of our playwrights can hear a selection from their work performed by professionals. Students consistently report that seeing the actors is their favorite part of the In-School Playwriting Program. (In fact, our students are delighted whenever the actors visit – sometimes they beg teaching artists to “bring back the actors!”)

These in-class readings are powerful events, as students are often inspired by the work of their peers. At Bell Multicultural High School, some students were moved to tears by the work of playwright Javier Reyes, whose play was featured in the 2011 New Play Festival, and playwright Cristian Miguel, whose play was read at New Writers Now! – The Fight for Family. Both young playwrights explored difficult issues, depicting a character’s struggle with addiction, and a family’s struggle with the decision to serve in the military, respectively. There was electricity in the air in Ms. Restak’s room as seasoned actors read the plays for the first time, bringing overwhelming emotion to the tragic stories.

But when it comes to selecting our season, it can be painful to let a really good play go unseen by a larger audience. Out of that big pool of 700, only 12 plays go on to the New Play Festival. Others make it into our New Writers Now! staged reading series. And some go on to be seen by audiences across the region in our Express Tour. Our 2011-2012 season already includes 22 plays, plus additional scenes, poetry and devised work. But we wondered: could we do more?

So with this year’s New Play Festival, we decided to celebrate more student playwrights than ever before. In addition to the twelve Featured Playwrights, we named fourteen Finalists. These Finalists are the students who made it to the top level of our Reading Committee (composed of YPT Company Members, staff, teaching artists and students). There’s Paola Rivera, whose play Super Ness Save the World! impressed readers with a smug, hilarious villain named Mean Cone. (Mean Cone’s first line? “I just tipped over a building with lots of innocent people in it and they all died!” And then he delivers an evil laugh!) Then there’s Evan McLean, who wowed us with his bold decision to personify the concept of war, transforming the idea into a character with fiery red hair and an aggressive attitude. And there’s Christian Bullock, who bravely told the story of a teenager struggling to escape an abusive home. These sometimes moving, sometimes funny, always inspiring plays deserve to be heard!

In the weeks leading up to the New Play Festival showcase performances at GALA Hispanic Theatre, we’ll present plays written by these Finalists in a series of Community Readings. We launched our season of new plays with readings at our Kickoff Party in January. Then in early March, we presented exceptional work by middle school Finalists in an Arlington Community Reading. We’ll visit neighborhoods across the region to make sure each of our fourteen Finalists gets a chance to see their play brought to life.

You can check out outstanding plays written by elementary school Finalists at our Capitol Hill Community Reading on Tuesday March 20 at 7pm at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW). The evening promises to be a fun (and family-friendly!) collection of wacky characters and comic performances. And don’t miss our Featured Playwrights on April 23 and 24 at GALA!

See you there,

Nicole
Program Manager

A Moving, Moon-filled Evening – YPT’s Fifteenth Birthday Season Opens!

Jenny Wrenn Models the Costume Worn by the Character Blockman at New Writers Now!

On October 4, I had the pleasure of attending YPT’s first New Writers Now! event of the season at GALA Hispanic Theatre in Columbia Heights. The theme of the evening was “Outside In”, and the three terrific plays that were performed posed the thought-provoking question, “How can we learn about ourselves from those who stand apart?” The playwrights’ inspiring, creative work brought both laughter and tears to the entire audience, as always, and as a member of YPT’s Board of Directors, it was particularly gratifying to me to see some of our fantastic community partners in the audience, along with the friends and families of the playwrights!

One piece which I found particularly moving was the beautiful play Moon Man, by Abby Melick. The piece tells the story of a young man who, after living alone as an orphan on the moon for years after losing his parents in a spaceship crash, finds himself on Earth again. The adjustment isn’t easy, and he has a difficult time reciprocating the small kindnesses he receives from the young girl who finds and tries to befriend him. At one point, the Moon Man, unable to take the pressures and frustrations of his isolating situation, contemplates ending his life.

As the Moon Man stood there, talking about why he felt this was the only way out for him, my mind couldn’t help but immediately think on those tragic young losses that a number of communities have had to cope with recently. When the young girl reached out a hand to help him and bring him away from the train tracks, tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about just how many helping hands are needed these days –  hands that are willing to reach out and comfort kids who might be struggling through their own tough and challenging times. It was a moment on stage that reminded me what great theatre can be: challenging, thought-provoking, and deeply, profoundly moving.

After the performance, we were invited as a group to write brief letters to specific characters from the plays we had seen and to share them with the playwrights and the rest of the audience. I felt compelled to write mine to the Moon Man (who, as it turned out, also shared my love for the works of Shakespeare – what a kindred spirit!) Here’s a little excerpt of what I wrote:

“I am SO incredibly glad you decided to stay with us. Keep shining on, Moon Man.”

And so I say this too to every young person out there who might be doubting themselves right now:  Your voice counts. We are listening. And we continue to need your amazing stories to remind us of those small kindnesses – those small moments of salvation – that make us all human.

Jenny Wrenn
Vice Chair, YPT Board of Directors