Meet Nora Foster and Kaitlyn Murphy!

GWO Playwright Photo Shoot-47
Kaitlyn Murphy (L) and Nora Foster (R) pose for a photo shoot.

Nora Foster and Kaitlyn Murphy are two strong, ambitious young women. The DC-area teens, who studied playwriting in YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program then saw their plays come to life in the New Play Festival, dream of making a difference in the world through their words and talents.

Kaitlyn, a freshman at Cardozo Education Campus, is an avid spoken word poet; Nora, a junior at Yorktown High School, enjoys nature photography. Their plays, Ayo’s Audience and Stuck in a Fairy Tale, will be featured in Girls Write Out!, YPT first performance of 2015-2016! Monday, October 19, at 7pm at The Forum in Sidney Harman Hall. FREE!

Click here for more information and tickets!

YPT sat down with Nora and Kaitlyn to learn more about their experience in the program, their hopes for Girls Write Out! and the value of sharing girls’ voices. Read on for the interview and photographs of these fabulous young playwrights!

GWO Playwright Photo Shoot-36

YPT: What did you think when the In-School Playwriting Program first came into your classroom?
KM: I was really excited to see what I could write, and [see it] being acted out.

YPT: How did you react when you found out your play was going to be performed?
KM:
There were a lot of students in my class, so when I realized that my play was going to be produced I thought, ‘Oh wow, this is cool!’
NF: I was really surprised, I was really happy…when YPT picked mine, I was just ecstatic. Having people not only compliment your work, but criticize it so you can grow and learn more from professionals [was really great].

GWO Playwright Photo Shoot-25YPT: Tell us about your play!
KM: My play is called Ayo’s Audience. [It’s] about a girl trying to follow her dream to become a spoken word artist. It’s very much like my story, so it was pretty easy to write it. [Ayo] lives with her father, and…is struggling to make him understand that she has a passion for this art. In the end, her father and her overcome obstacles, and their relationship becomes stronger.
NF: My play is Stuck in a Fairy Tale, and this girl basically gets thrown into different fairy tales. Like Snow White, Rapunzel…it’s a twist on these classics.

YPT: Where did that come from in your mind?
NF: I have no idea! We were doing some exercise with YPT, and…all of a sudden it just popped into my head! I was just like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll write about this!’ Turned out pretty good…

GWO Playwright Photo Shoot-4YPT: What is your play’s moral/what do you want audience members to walk away with?
KM: My wish [is] for everybody to relate to the characters…my moral is, ‘Keep striving for your dream, no matter what. You have to push through the obstacles and keep steady.’
NF: I just hope that when people walk away from seeing my play, that they remember it…you have to do what’s right for you, and no matter what people say you have to know what’s good for you and follow through. Stand up for yourself.
KM: I want more people to involve themselves in the arts more…that’d be a really cool thing, to see other girls involve themselves in things that [are] a release for them.

YPT: What happens when a girl realizes the power of her voice?
KM: I’m still trying to find the power of my voice! (Laughs) The power of your voice comes when you start affecting people by what you say, and you realize that your voice has a meaning, and that it can make an impact on certain situations or people.
NF: Once you find your voice, it makes a really big impact on others. As long as you use it for good, and you tell people…whatever you’re passionate about, it can make a big impact.

YPT: Do you have any advice for young playwrights in YPT’s program right now?
KM: Don’t worry about nobody else. Have your stuff set, do what you need to do—no matter what, your play is amazing, because you wrote it. The process of writing a play is the best thing ever: you just wrote a play! That’s great! I bet you haven’t done that before! …Appreciate it for what it is.
NF: Don’t doubt yourself…just write what you think is good, don’t compare yourself, because everyone is different in their own way, everyone is unique. Just believe in yourself and keep doing what you think is creative.

GWO Playwright Photo Shoot-73

Thank you to Nora and Kaitlyn for speaking with YPT! See their creativity on display at Girls Write Out!, Monday, October 19 at 7pm at the Forum in Sidney Harman Hall! FREE! Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.

Click here to reserve your tickets to Girls Write Out!

The 2015 New Play Festival: Super Awesome Extras

2015 NPF Postcard FRONT FINAL

YPT’s 2015 New Play Festival is just around the corner! April 20-22, 2015, at 7pm at GALA Hispanic Theatre, our dedicated team of professional actors, directors and dramaturges will bring to life fifteen vivid and compelling plays written by YPT students ages 8-17.

This year’s Festival, the culmination of YPT’s 20th Anniversary season, will be our biggest and best yet! The fifteen plays we’re featuring this year come from a pool of over 1,000 submissions – more than we’ve ever received before. NPF 2015 Book Cover FRONTAnd boy, are they spectacular! From the riotous tale of a bacon strip’s vengeance to hard-hitting family dramas, these plays reflect the diverse voices of our intelligent, inquisitive and imaginative students.

We received so many great submissions, in fact, that we couldn’t fit them all into one show! Seventeen other plays, which were named as Finalists for the Festival, will be published alongside the Featured Plays in our 2015 New Play Festival book, available for purchase on Amazon.

But the creativity of our young playwrights did not stop with their Finalist or Featured Plays – many of them have sent us other pieces of written or visual art that couldn’t make it into the book. Thus, we present to you:

The 2015 New Play Festival: Super Awesome Extras

Featured Plays

The Trip to the New World, by Aijah T. Royal

The Trip to the New World tells the tale of a teenage girl stuck inside High School World, who dreams of traveling to the Real World. Even before the play was selected for the Festival, Aijah had already sketched out her vision for what the two worlds look like! Check it out, and see The Trip to the New World live onstage on Monday, April 20!

Trip to the New World scene

Losxy Docxy, by Evan Alston

Based on an African folk tale, Evan Alston’s Losxy Docxy is the spooky story of a being that comes out at night to snatch people with dreadlocks and take them away to his lair. Evan himself, however, is far from spooky: in fact, he’s just about as cute as can be! He’s also an accomplished poet, and read this heart-warming piece at YPT’s Giving Voice Award Gala in early March:

Dear fellow student. You have just found this hidden capsule. So for your reward I’ll tell you a poem about the Young Playwrights Theater.

Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetAfter this poem, I know you’ll be a fan.
After this poem I 
know you’ll understand.
After this poem you won’t be 
tired,
after this poem you’ll be inspired.

The Young Playwrights are the best.
They are better than 
all the rest.
The Young Playwrights are so cool,
So cool 
just like school.

They will take your hard work and creativity,
and help 
you be the best you can be.
YPT is so much fun.
They 
have enthusiasm for everyone.

So if you want to write a play you better come on in,
because with YPT you’re going to win!!!

Written by Evan Alston

See Losxy Docxy on Night Two of the Festival, Tuesday, April 21!

Finalists

The Hero Who Called Himself Faith, by Scott Lake

During his In-School Playwriting Program, Chelsea School student Scott Lake wrote an epic fantasy play called The Hero Who Called Himself Faith. We were astounded by the richness of the world he created, and are happy to share the script in the book! Just before we sent the book off to print, Scott sent us more background on the play, along with two AMAZING drawings his friend Jordan Barron made of the hero James and the evil Demon King. Take a look!

There once was a war between Man and Demon. Neither side could win, but the Demon King had a trick up his sleeve: his weapons were made out of a rare alloy forged out of misery.

The Demon King used many slaves working in his mine to look for this rare alloy. He captured many villages and made them work in the mine. The Demon King killed many people and made some of them work till death. The miners would feel very miserable and scared when they worked and it made the weapons even stronger.

But one man with pure heart stole some of this rare alloy and forged the Sword of Faith, the Helm of Wisdom and the Shield of Strength. These weapons made the Demon King retreat back to his domain.

But all good heroes die; before he died, he saw a vision from the Helm of Wisdom that when he died the Demon King would return and take over. But he saw a child that was purest of heart and would vanquish the Demon King. He told his oldest and strongest son to take the Shield of Strength to the eastern mountains with a huge army waiting for this child. Then he told the smartest and wisest son to take the Helm of Wisdom to the south and train this child. He told his last son that he should go west to look for the child, so he gave his son a piece of his sword and told him, “It will glow when you find this child.”

When he died, his body was hidden in the mountain with the sword guarded by a dragon. The only way to get the Sword of Faith is to solve this riddle, and the riddle is: “I shall raise my sword only to Evil and put it down for Good.”

James, holding the Sword of Faith and the Shield of Strength and wearing the Helm of Wisdom.
James, holding the Sword of Faith and the Shield of Strength and wearing the Helm of Wisdom.
The evil Demon King!
The evil Demon King!

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

Our Playwrights Fear Nothing (Not Even Peanut Butter): Reflections on the New Play Festival

Last week, on April 11-13, YPT presented the 2011 New Play Festival. It was an inspiring experience for YPT’s young playwrights, artists, staff and the hundreds of community members who came out to GALA Hispanic Theatre to celebrate with us (we had overflowing houses all three nights!).

As YPT’s Program Assistant and a New Play Festival dramaturge, I was particularly inspired to watch a play written by one of my students make its way from the page to the stage over the past few months.

When I sat down to read Flatworm’s Courageous Act for YPT’s 2011 New Play Festival reading committee in January, I immediately remembered the student who wrote it.

I taught Lauren White’s 4th grade class at Lafayette Elementary School in the spring of 2010 through YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program, and though I hadn’t seen her in more than 6 months, Lauren stuck in my mind as a student who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and was always eager to write. As I read her play again for the reading committee, I was  reminded of why I nominated it for the festival last year. Lauren’s imaginative and hilarious play about a flatworm-turned-superhero who must overcome his fear of peanut butter to save the girl of his dreams (she’s held captive by a Peanut Butter Monster, naturally) left me in awe of her intelligence and creativity. The play’s silliness keeps the laughs coming, but also reads as a staged coming-of-age graphic novel, drawing upon the style and themes of classic comic books.

When YPT decided to produce Flatworm’s Courageous Act in the 2011 New Play Festival, I was excited to learn that I would have the opportunity to help bring Lauren’s vision to life as its dramaturge. After our first meeting, the blend of smart writing and wackiness in the play made total sense: while Lauren took copious notes and had an immediate idea for every suggestion I made, she also demonstrated her “Billy Bob Thorton as an Australian” impression for me while we waited for her mom to pick her up. I also learned where the mature stylistic elements in Flatworm’s Courageous Act came from. Lauren showed me some of the impressive cartoons she has drawn, including one of Flatworm himself, and told me that her mom is a professional artist.

After hearing Lauren’s play read by professional actors at the first New Play Festival read-through on March 12, I grew even more impressed with her playwriting expertise. The characters, style, and tone of her play were so clearly written that the actors immediately picked up on it and created a world of flawed but brave superheroes, gruff villains and shrieking damsels in distress.

Following Lauren through this entire process – from her first workshop in the Lafayette Library to the performance of Flatworm’s Courageous Act which took place last week – has been an amazing experience. It embodies what we aim to do at YPT: foster talented young writers and guide them through the playwriting process from their first monologue to their final round of applause.

To read Lauren’s take on the process, click here.

To see photos from last week’s New Play Festival, click here.

Laurie Ascoli
Program Assistant

From Spark to Stage in Twelve Weeks: YPT Kicks Off In-School Programming

Last week, YPT kicked off what is always one of the most fun and exciting parts of our season:  the In-School Playwriting Program.  I was fortunate enough to not only teach one of the first workshops, but also to observe many others throughout DC.

The first week of classes is the beginning of an exciting twelve-week experience during which students from grades 4-11 are taken through the process of writing a play.  Once a week, students meet with their teaching artist to learn about characters, conflict, format, dialogue and other aspects of playwriting.  As the weeks progress, the students build toward writing their own play, which will be performed for them by professional actors in the final workshop.  The best of these completed plays are chosen by YPT to be performed at GALA Hispanic Theatre in the spring.

Students begin the first workshop by brainstorming what a play is.  At Plummer Elementary School, one student said, “A play is telling a story on-stage!”  At Bancroft Elementary School, another student added that a play is “a way to express yourself and your emotions.”  After offering their ideas, the students watch professional actors perform a short play created by YPT.  The play ends at a climactic moment, at which point students are called on to create their own endings to the play.  Ideas the students called out involved science labs, light sabers, the FBI, severed fingers, secret lairs, ransom, witches melting, and detention.  The students were on the edges of their seats with excitement as they watched the actors bring their ideas to life before their eyes.

As incredible at it was to witness the students’ creativity, watching their confidence grow throughout the workshop was even more exciting.  At one point a student at Wilson High School called out, “I have a brilliant idea!” We hope all students will develop this attitude during their semester with YPT!

Laurie
Program Assistant

YPT Welcomes Raina Fox as Our New Community Engagement Associate!

Sometimes artists get a bad name: they are disorganized and unreliable. They let their ideas get ahead of their ability to perform. They live in a world of their own.

I am so thrilled to be part of a team of artists who share none of those traits.

As I end my very first week as Community Engagement Associate at the Young Playwrights’ Theater, I am overcome by the energy, intelligence, organization, creativity, and passion of the folks who make it possible for our young playwrights to contribute to and be a part of our creative world.

On Tuesday evening, YPT held its first ever kick-off event, at which actors performed teaser scenes from three student plays. Students, families, board members, supporters, and staff gathered to celebrate and watch as these plays begin to form. We watched as a boy from the moon struggled to understand earth, a young man and his turtle friend confronted their own personal hell (high school), and a couple’s relationship started to deteriorate because of a text message.  The plays were funny, insightful, clever, and entertaining. However, the best part was watching the young playwrights as they saw their characters come to life through the words they had written. Though they seemed a bit embarrassed, they absolutely radiated pride and excitement. I was so happy to approach the essence of YPT by experiencing these plays alongside their young writers and so many members of the wonderful YPT community.

I also experienced the first stage of a Fannie Mae-commissioned play on homelessness in the form of workshops at N Street Village and Martha’s Table. The women of N Street and children of Martha’s table were amazingly eloquent, perceptive, and enthusiastic when speaking about the issue of homelessness. They were not only willing to share their perspectives, but thrilled to be part of the play to come. I too am excited to see where these community perspectives lead the creative process and to have my perspective of homelessness tested along the way.

This week was the perfect introduction to my time at YPT—I was able to see the brainstorming and writing processes, experience the first stage in producing a play, and begin to connect with YPT and the broader community. As I start to develop ways to further engage our community, I know this is rooted in a strong, supportive, passionate group of folks, who, yes, happen to be artists.

Raina
Community Engagement Associate

Does our education system kill creativity?

In this highly amusing Ted Talk Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for creativity in the classroom.  He says, “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”

He goes on to say “There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance as rigorously as we teach mathematics.” He goes on to tell of the famous choreographer, Gillian Lynne, who discovered her talent because she couldn’t sit still in class. The school administrator recommended to her mother that they enroll her in dance school.  Sir Robinson posits that if she were a student today, she’d be medicated for ADHD.

Do you agree with Sir Robinson’s points? Do we need to revolutionize our education system to include more creative opportunities? Where did you learn to be creative?