Be a #YPThero during YPT’s Hero Week!

Sarah Olmsted Thomas Supergirl

“What happens when a young person realizes the power of her voice? She becomes the hero of her own story.”

YPT’s young playwrights love to write about superheroes. From Supergirl to Tornado Boy and Broccoli Man, some of the most memorable characters created by YPT students wear masks and capes.

Why is that? We think it’s because creating superheroes allows young people to let their imaginations run wild, and gives them a vehicle to see themselves as someone who can change the world.

Take a look at some of the amazing superheroes YPT students created for their plays during our In-School Playwriting Program this year:

Cristian Daly Heroes 1 cropped

Blue Ninja 2 croppedCristian Daly Heroes 2


Each of these characters represents a dream for a young person: a dream of making a difference, of being special – of being great.

This holiday season, you can be a #YPThero, and show a young playwright how great they truly are. 

How? Let us tell you!

  1. Donate to YPT!

    Now through the end of 2015, we are seeking out those heroes who will stand up for the forces of arts education, to give of themselves so that young people can experience the joy of creation. Will you make that difference?? Just $10/month pays for one student to take the In-School Playwriting Program for an entire semester!

    DonateNow

  2. Join YPT for Hero Week!

    Starting on Monday, November 16, YPT is holding our first-ever Hero Week, celebrating our young heroes and the people who paved the way for their greatness. Every day during Hero Week, we’ll honor heroes big and small with fun social media activities. Post photos of yourself as a superhero, share stories of everyday heroes in your life and much, much more!

    Stay tuned for all the details on Hero Week, coming next week to this blog!

Follow the whole campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @yptdc, using hashtag #YPThero! Thank you for helping DC’s young people become the heroes of their own stories!

Cristian Daly PP photo

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!

Spotlight on Sam Burris: YPT Featured Playwright

Sam Burris was a student in YPT’s In School Playwriting Program at Swanson Middle School last semester.  His play, The Stranger, deals with a young war veteran battling his demons after returning to the United States. Sam gives this tale a unique twist through his personification of Fear as the protagonist’s opponent.  Below, Sam talks about his experience of conceiving and writing The Stranger, which will be produced in YPT’s New Play Festival on April 24. 

Reflection on the New Play Festival Process
by Sam Burris

Like most of the kids in my all year drama class, I groaned when I heard that we were going to be writing a play every Wednesday for the next twelve weeks. But secretly, I was really looking forward to it. At first trying to write my play was really frustrating. I had a distinct idea in my head, and I just didn’t know how to put it into words. But once I got the words flowing, it was really easy and enjoyable to write this play. There were so many great plays in my class, so I was really surprised when I found out I had been selected to even be considered, let alone have my play produced.

After my play was selected, I was thrilled to learn that [YPT Program Associate] Laurie Ascoli would be my dramaturge, especially because she had been the teaching artist for my class. She was very helpful in the original process of writing my play, as well as when I had to make my final edits. Although we didn’t spend as much time together working on it, as I think some of the other playwrights may have, I never would’ve been able to write my play without her help. She guided me to make changes that helped me to better understand my own characters and find the words to describe the newfound aspects of the characters to the audience.

Throughout the whole process, I was afraid my play wasn’t “good enough”. Especially at the first read when I heard everyone elses’ plays. They were so spectacular, I was afraid to have mine read. But after I heard it read, I knew that it would do just fine. I loved hearing my words come to life through the actors. It was amazing.

I’m honored to be featured in the New Play Festival, and I’m astounded by the emotional capacity that the other playwrights express in their plays. I’m sure it’ll be great!

Sam Burris
YPT Young Playwright 

YPT’s Fall Semester: Reflecting on the Journey

Around this time two years ago, I was finishing my first semester as a freelance teaching artist, and my first semester with YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program.  I had spent the fall semester with a class of eighth graders at Swanson Middle School, teaching them about character and conflict, structure and stage directions, but mostly being awed over and over by their creativity, maturity and intelligence.  One particularly wonderful play, Love Math and Martians Don’t Mix by Cassidy Boomsma, went on to be produced in the 2010 New Play Festival, and then went out on the Express Tour the following season.  As I worked with Cassidy to dramaturge her play and watched her grow as a student and a playwright, I was amazed at how far she had come.

Now, as the new year begins, I am YPT’s Program Associate, and have just completed another semester at Swanson, in addition to overseeing our other in-school programming.  This fall, we reached more students than ever before, with 24 workshops in eight schools.  898 students, led by eight fearless teaching artists, dove headfirst into the art of playwriting.  Over the past few weeks, from the hundreds of plays produced by these students, YPT has narrowed the pool down to 26 finalists to be considered for the 2012 New Play Festival.  For the first time, we were aided in this selection by our Company, which was created just this year. This diverse collection of students, directors, teacher, actors and writers will continue to assist us as we choose the final ten to twelve plays that will be performed in this year’s festival. 

While I am now a full-time employee at YPT, with much more responsibility than I had two years ago, setting foot back in the first school where I taught our curriculum brought back for me many of the core reasons why I wanted to work here in the first place.  Because of our curriculum, which challenges our students, makes them think, makes them laugh, and takes them on a twelve week journey, at the end of which they have a finished play.  Because of wonderful classroom teachers like Karen Biggs-Leeds, who keeps her classes perfectly in line, while at the same time making obvious how much she cares for them.  But, most of all, because of the young playwrights: their ideas, their silliness, their perceptions of the world, their willingness to tackle something completely new and their determination to get it just right.  The joy and pride in bringing out of them an incredible story that they had all along, but never shared, or didn’t even realize was there.

And while the process for choosing the plays to feature in the New Play Festival is different, just like two years ago I find myself eagerly waiting to see which plays will be produced, wondering what the rest of the reading committee thinks about the plays that I nominated, and looking forward to working with a young playwright during the dramaturgy process.

As we enter the spring semester, we are preparing to serve four more schools, bringing us to all eight wards of the district this school year.  Five teaching artists are preparing to help bring to life the stories of an entirely new group of students.  And while YPT has undergone changes upon changes since the first class I taught, and so have I, returning to Swanson reminded me that the creativity of our students and the quality of their work, as well as our reasons for teaching them, remains the same.

Laurie
Program Associate

A Meaningful Gift for Cyber Monday

Today is Cyber Monday – the biggest online shopping day of the year. You have probably already received dozens of emails from online retailers with exclusive, one-day-only deals.

As you work off your turkey hang-over and get a head-start on holiday shopping today, I urge you to consider making a meaningful gift that will wow your family and friends:  a gift that helps a local student fulfill her dreams.

The impact that YPT has on our community is deep and enduring. For many of our students, YPT is their first experience with an interactive, creative writing process. And YPT teaching artists are often the first adults to show these students that their dreams, ideas and beliefs are valuable and can have a powerful impact on the world around them.

Here are some truly meaningful gifts that you can purchase for our students today:

$10 buys a writing portfolio and writing supplies for one student to develop her very first play.

$25 provides a  local student with his very first playwriting workshop – showing him the value of  his dreams and ideas, and helping him engage in his education in fun way.

$50 provides a classroom of local students with their very first experience of live, professional theater – inspiring them to write and share their own stories with the world.

Click here and purchase any of these gifts today in the name of a loved one, and the gift recipient will receive a personal note of thanks from YPT, with a description of the impact of your gift. He or she will also receive a limited edition “Innovation through Arts Education” bracelet, and two, reserved front-row seats at the New Play Festival this April.

Celebrate Cyber Monday by investing in innovation, investing in our children, and buying your share of the future. Now that’s a great deal.

Thank you, as always, for your amazing support. Without you, there would be no YPT.

Brigitte Pribnow Moore
Deputy Director

I would like to thank [YPT] for their support and encouragement as I wrote my play. Working with YPT was the best experience I ever had in school. This is something I will really remember as the best thing from all my years of high school.
            -Saviya Brown, YPT Student

What We Value: The Young Playwrights’ Workshop

I started working with the after-school Young Playwrights’ Workshop last spring. Our students inspired me. (It was not surprising – our students inspire me constantly.) Here was a group of people that were so supportive of one another, so courageous with their art form, so happy to share their thoughts and dreams. Basically, they were a functioning ensemble. It worked.

I wanted to understand how it worked. I’m sure everyone has, at some point in their lives, tried to work together with nine or ten other people and failed. So what was the Workshop doing differently? What was their secret?

I asked them, and here’s what they said:

“We may not all have the same opinions on certain subjects, but the key ingredient that holds us together is respect.”

“We agree on not making fun of people.”

“I love hearing a different approach to the same topic! It’s so wonderful to see something in someone else’s point of view.”

I continued to mull over these responses during the summer. The students were right on about their success. But could it be replicated? I was scared and excited to take over leading the Workshop in the fall. What if this dynamic had been a fluke? What if we couldn’t make it work without the seniors who had gone on to college? What if, what if, what if.

What was needed was a way to inspire the new Workshop the same way last year’s students inspired me. We needed to name what was important, and to agree on what we were working towards. As excited as everyone was about the product (the performance in June), it was just as important to have a rewarding process. How did the Workshop want to get where it was going?

Again, all I had to do was ask. I borrowed from Michael Rohd’s excellent book Theatre for Community, Conflict and Dialogue, leading the new and returning students in a values clarification exercise. I read various statements and asked the students to move to a different spot in the room, depending on whether they agreed, disagreed, or were unsure. I found out where there was consensus and where there was discord. For example, I read: “I am here to make friends.” There were different opinions in the group. Some students disagreed, saying that they preferred to focus on achieving the goal of performance. Others spoke to their experience in the workforce, saying that you don’t have to be best friends with someone to get a job done. On the other hand, some students expressed that friendships can help with collaboration – when you know someone well you can communicate easily. The point of the exercise is not to debate each statement, just to understand the different points of view that are present in the room. (In that way the exercise fit in with the reflections of last year’s ensemble.)

I also asked students to write towards this question of values individually. I ended up with a wealth of raw material to draw from, and only needed to give it shape. The ensemble unanimously approved these values on October 19. These are the values that the Workshop will strive to live out this year:

  • Respect: We are a team. We treat every member of the team with respect, and we embrace each other’s differences. It is never okay to make fun of someone’s idea.
  • Collaboration: We work together by making a thread. We each add a little piece of fiber and in the end we get this rope. We are all linked together by this passion that brings us understanding and abundant knowledge about each other and our world.
  • Freedom of Expression: We want this program to be a place where a person can freely express their opinions. All ideas are important. All ideas are considered.
  • Evolution: We are here to grow as writers and actors.
  • Commitment: We depend on each other as a team. We each take pride in our own work and the work of the whole group. We always try our best.
  • Impact: We want people to be inspired by our work. We will create theater that is relevant to our community, and will make people think.
  • Fun: This is not school, and it shouldn’t feel like school. We are here to have fun!

The values are posted on the walls of the studio for everyone to see. I asked the students to sign contracts, agreeing to uphold these values, and to hold each other to them as well. And that includes me! I hope that if I become boring, someone will just raise their hand and point to “Fun.” That’ll teach me.

If you want to join the Workshop, click here. We’d love to have you.

Nicole
Program Manager