Supergirl’s Training Journal

Calling all YPT superheroes!

Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause is officially one month away!  We can’t wait to run with all our friends and supporters on October 14th!

As we enter the final stretch, we’ve recruited the ultimate trainer – our very own Supergirl, YPT’s 8k team leader and star of our recent reality show training video! Supergirl was created by student playwright Dakota Wenberg in her play A Jewel of Date, which was produced in our 2011 New Play Festival and Express Tour. We asked Dakota to bring Supergirl back to help motivate our walkers and runners by sharing her training regimen, and guess what … while Supergirl may be leading all our hardcore 8k competitors, she started out just like everyone else.

 Check out Supergirl’s hilarious and inspirational journey from “Supersoregirl” to race-ready, as imagined by Dakota. Then don’t forget to register for the race on October 14 and support YPT! As Supergirl reminds us, real superheroes aren’t about winning; they are about helping others in superhuman ways!”


Hey everybody!

It’s Supergirl here, ready to get you excited about the upcoming Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause! I will be helping my friends at YPT raise money for their programs. You can follow my progress as I get ready to run hard this fall.

Day 1 – I woke up this morning to the ring of my home phone. I picked it up and who should it be but my friend Laurie down at YPT. She came to me with an urgent plea for a superhero to lead the charge in Acumen Solutions’ Race for a Cause. I immediately agreed. Unfortunately only after I put down the phone did I realize exactly what I had signed up for. I had to run; dad taught me to fly not run. This was going to be much more difficult than I had expected. So who was I supposed to turn to for help? Who was insane enough to run every day up and down brutal hills while torturing their every muscle in their bodies? Who would willfully submit themselves to miles of endless scenery and pain on foot? Then it hit me, like a baseball. I reached for my phone and started dialing furiously. There was only one solution to my problem, the Cross Country team.

Day 2 – 5:30 AM. Sunrises are overrated. Sweat and pain takes all the beauty out of it. The things they don’t tell you at the beginning of practice could fill an entire three part series. For instance wheezing and shortness of breath are not considered signs of a pending heart attack. I had no idea the team was made up of Flash wannabes, I just wanted to finish the race, they wanted to sprint for 5 kilometers or so I gathered from their training regime. You would think that stopping running would stop the pain, but no, it only starts a new cycle of discomfort. I see a hot bath in my future.

Day 3 – 5:30 AM. I can’t do it, I won’t go, they can’t make me. I’m going to hide. Yeah like I’m going back there again. Supergirl? More like Supertiredgirl, Supersoregirl, and Superstupidforsigningupforthisgirl. I made the mistake of telling dad about my promise to YPT and he’s determined to make me go. Right now I’m hiding under the sink in desperate hope that the metal will throw my father’s x-ray vision off. Shh. I hear him coming…. ACK! Caught, think fast. Oh yeah . . . Why am I under the sink?  . . . I was just checking up on the pipes dad! Gotta run.

Day 15 – 5:30 am. I fear that I may have scared my readers off with my apocalyptic tales of running, but now that it’s been about two weeks I’m starting to get the hang of it. My muscles don’t hurt anymore and I can run faster than I ever have before. I’ve elevated my expectations, and I no longer want to simply finish the race, but I want to kick some hiney. I am no longer staggering into the locker room ten minutes after everybody has showered and gone home. The coaches have stopped giving me those sad sympathetic eyes. I remember when dad took me on my first around the world flying trip, it took two hours and twenty minutes, and we almost hit Everest (navigation error a.k.a. dad refused to ask for direction when we got blown off course at the Tien Shan Mountains.) I never thought running could give you the same high as flying. I love this!!!

Day 29 – 8:30 PM. I’ve got ten minutes to lights out. Tomorrow is race day and I need my sleep. Today I pounded carbs all the way up until the big team pasta dinner. Unfortunately I had forgotten what a super human appetite I have and before I knew what was going on I had downed half a pan of baked ziti and two loaves of garlic bread. Lucky for me I blended in with my teammates just fine — have you seen how much teenagers eat?  I am in perfect shape, I am ready. I will win.

Day 30– 5:43 AM. Coach told me I could sleep in until 6:30 before the race but I can’t seem to shake off something Dad said to me last night as I was getting ready to sleep.  He reminded me that real superheroes aren’t about winning; they are about helping others in superhuman ways – like the super organizations that will benefit from Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause.  I let my ambition get the best of me.  Today is not about being number one – today is about helping others be the best they can be.  Today we sweat for others.  Tomorrow they lead us to new superhero heights.

Don’t forget to register for the race by October 11th!  We can’t wait to see you on the 14th!

Training Tips from Flatworm

Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause is now almost six weeks away!  We are so excited to see all the friends and community members who have registered to participate in the race for YPT, and we can’t wait for October.

We’ve been training all summer, but we all know it can be hard to stay motivated.  Luckily we have some important training tips from Flatworm himself, from Flatworm’s Courageous Act, written by student playwright Lauren White and produced in our 2011 New Play Festival and Express Tour. As YPT’s superhero team leader for the 1 Mile Fun Run, we asked Lauren to bring Flatworm back for some extra motivation as we get closer to the race! Check out what Lauren came up with for Flatworm’s special message to our walkers and runners, and don’t forget to register for the race on October 14!

Hello, beings of earth! This is Flatworm, carrying an important message from Young Playwrights’ Theater. The Race for a Cause™ 8k and 1 Mile Fun Run is coming soon, and I’ve got a few tips for you runners, joggers and crawlers!

• Never run too fast in the beginning. This is a long distance to go, just like the four foot wall that I once had to climb.

• Always keep in mind that you CAN lose. It’s good motivation to win!

• Stay hydrated! Drinking enough water is SO important when you’re doing any kind of physical activity. I personally had to learn this the hard way when I didn’t drink enough water before trying to open a bottle of peanut butter. THAT was a big mistake.

Last of all, and perhaps the most obvious of all, try your best! No matter if it’s running in a race, or if it’s defeating an evil villain, trying hard is the #1 way to succeed.

I hope these tips will really help you guys in the race!

Love,

Flatworm

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

Fernando Romero: It Matters

Fernando Romero graduated in May 2006 from Antioch College with a major in theater.  His life as an actor is one he could have little imagined as a young boy growing up in a mountain village in El Salvador.
The transition from his childhood in El Salvador to his adolescence in DC was the topic of a play entitled My Story that Fernando wrote with YPT.  Fernando first became acquainted with YPT while he was a student at Bell Multicultural High School.  After graduation, YPT offered Fernando a job, first as a receptionist and then as a Program Coordinator from 1999-2002.  Founder Karen Zacarias gave him his first acting job with YPT’s Express Tour.
Fernando says, “It was an amazing experience.  If Karen hadn’t given me the opportunity to act with the Express Tour, I probably wouldn’t have decided to study theater.”
YPT was proud to welcome Fernando back to the fold with his performance in African Roots/Latino Soul in the Fall of 2006 at the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theatre.  Fernando has continued to work with YPT over the past five years – as an actor and as an enthusiastic community advocate for the company.
 
Watch Fernando explain why arts education matters so much to him in the video below.

Want to help keep the arts in DC schools? Learn more here.

Fernando Romero
YPT Actor

The YPT Express Tour: Stories from the Road

This November and December, YPT’s professional performance company toured more than sixty elementary schools, nursing homes, community centers, theaters, and hospitals with YPT’s annual Express Tour, presenting three vibrant new plays written by young playwrights and community members. Over 6,000 community members had the opportunity to explore issues of homelessness in The Good Neighbor, see how a community of magical birds can teach us something new about our own humanity in The Bird of One Thousand Colors and relish the power of friendship in Love, Math and Martians Don’t Mix.

Now that the Express Tour bus has returned home to YPT, Tour company members share thoughts and stories from the road.

Erin Baxter, Stage Manager
The YPT Express Tour. It’s hard to say what I will miss most after this incredible experience!  As the stage manager, I had the opportunity to watch our actors perform in over sixty venues, and each one was unique in its own way.

My favorite part about live theater and this tour is the element of surprise. You’re never quite sure what will happen in theater and it leaves the door open for a variety of opportunities and wonderful moments. We had plenty of surprises on this tour. From the bus not starting, to working in extremely small venues, actors getting sick, or students / residents asking challenging questions, there was always something new. The wonderful part is that we always managed to make the show happen. We might leave half our set out of a performance, replace a sick actor with a person “on book” (with the script in their hand), or improvise wonderful stories during our workshops with the residents. No matter what the challenge, we were always able to make real and moving theater and to stay true to the work we were presenting. Seeing how theater touches people, and, better yet, involves audiences in discussions about real issues, is one of the most rewarding experiences I could ever have in my job.

Wendy Nogales, Actor
We had six shows over two days at one school because it was a huge school and there were a ton of students who were going to get the opportunity to see the show. The class periods were just too short to perform all three, so we ended up performing an extended talkback for The Good Neighbor. It was cool having a real dialogue with the students about homelessness.  Usually we don’t have time to talk for more then a couple of minutes, and we can’t get to that many questions or comments. The extended talkback offered the opportunity to really hear lots of different points of view. We always ran out of time with tons of students still wanting to share. It was a special two days.

My favorite non-performance Express Tour moment happened on the last day, at the last venue. The back-story is that last year we had come across a few therapy dogs while doing shows at nursing homes. So this year someone PROMISED that we would see at least one cute dog. And for seven weeks and six days we saw not one. On a weekly basis, the promise would be questioned and reaffirmed. On the last day of the Tour, it was again promised that we would see a puppy. Well, we walked into our final venue, and in the first room after the lobby was the MOST ADORABLE puppy you have ever seen – a seven-week-old ball of white fur that fit into the palm of your hand. It was pretty surreal.

Alex Vernon, Actor
My favorite thing about the 2010 Express Tour was how well everyone got along and worked together. A 7am call is never a fun experience, but everyone was friendly and helpful, even that early in the morning. There was a great deal of camaraderie, which translated into being able to instantly jump into any classroom or nursing home and feel comfortable enough to start making connections with the audience.

Also, IHOP has this stuffed French toast that I always wanted to get while on tour, but I never did after a bad experience with stuffed French toast in Tennessee. Dawn, a fellow company actor, tried to convince me that it was good and that I should give it another shot, but I was pretty skeptical. I mean, what if it has that gross cream cheese filling instead of that good sweet cream cheese filling? I often just settled for the Viva La French Toast, which they don’t put on the menu in as prominent a place as they used to, but is still available. I reckon some people measure their lives in regrets. But I hope we’re capable of change.

Daniel Mori, Assistant Stage Manger, Actor, Puppeteer
I just met a random student at Starbucks who recognized me from the YPT Express Tour, and we had a lovely conversation about the show and the response of the other kids at her school.  She really appreciated that our plays had meaning and a message, and especially that we focused on bullying and outer appearances vs. inner beauty. She shared how her family moved to the U.S. a year ago, and her first year in school she was bullied and alienated just because she was different. I was able to pull up the YPT website (Yay, smart phone!) and tell her about YPT student Mariana Pavon Sanchez, and how she had written a play with YPT about her experience coming to the U.S., and how she then had the opportunity this past October to accept the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award with YPT at the White House. By the end of our conversation, this girl had already pulled out a notebook and pen so she could start writing her own play for us to perform! **Insert warm, fuzzy feelings here.**

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YPT’s next tour, a two-week travelling performance of Woodlawn, a new play about DC’s historic Woodlawn Cemetery, kicks off this February. We can’t wait to get back on the road!

Be sure to check out the February 7th premiere of Woodlawn during the upcoming New Writers Now! at GALA Hispanic Theatre.

YPTimeMachine: Week Two

As YPT launches our 15th birthday celebration, we’re spending a lot of time reflecting on 1995 – both what was popular at the time (snap bracelets and pog collections, anyone?)  and where we were in our own lives.  Some staff members were embarking on new chapters in their adult lives, while others were still navigating their way through elementary school.  But reading all our 1995 staff bios, I noticed a common thread – an interest in the creative arts, and a drive to succeed in the things we were passionate about.  Raina, our Community Engagement Associate, performed plays for her family and friends and read under her desk in class.  Laurie, our Program Assistant, had a play she wrote produced at a school assembly.  Brigitte, our Development Director, turned in an unassigned book report on Les Misérables in middle school.  Patrick, our Associate Artistic Director, looked forward to a college because it offered new opportunities for theater, and David, our Producing Artistic Director and CEO, was a working actor in New York City – not an easy job!

While I wasn’t lucky enough to have a program as cool as YPT come into my classroom, I was an avid writer in 1995, filling up notebooks with stories inspired by my favorite books at the time.  In second grade, we did have a class called “Writer’s Workshop” where we were instructed to write whatever we wanted, and I looked forward to it every week.  It was during these Writer’s Workshops that I produced the only story with chapters in my class, and learned how to use quotation marks for dialogue.  I was also spellbound by all the school plays (I have memories of Janney Elementary’s production of Oliver! as a theatrical masterpiece) and, inspired, I would put on plays at home, often playing multiple roles.  As I got older the idea of being on stage became less appealing, but I kept writing and remained fascinated with theater, which led me to major in theater in college and, many internships later, land a job with YPT.  I, like so many of us in the arts world, discovered a passion for the arts at an early age, and without exposure to creative opportunities and encouragement from teachers and parents, I probably would not have pursued working in the arts, which has led to some amazing experiences and a job I feel lucky to have.

As part of our look back, we found a huge box of YPT material circa 1995-1997.  Some of the plays are hilariously mid-90s, including a play submitted for consideration for 1996 Express Tour in which Madonna discovers that Dennis Rodman is really a woman, and a play in which Tia and Tamera (presumably from the 90s classic Sister, Sister) go to a party at Puff Daddy’s house.  But many plays have themes that we still see today in student work.  Plays from early Express Tour performances dealt with issues such as forbidden love, violence in the community, AIDS and, on the lighter side, a kid who puts a love note to his secret crush in the wrong locker.  Today, that character would probably text his declaration of love (in 160 characters or less) to the wrong cell phone, but the ideas and the quality of the work has remained the same.  We’ve seen high-waist jeans come and go, we’ve seen the rise and fall of boy bands, we’ve been through several presidents, but the talents of young students and the importance of arts education opportunities remain as important now as they were in 1995.

So come check out our Express Tour Showcase November 3-6!  Maybe in 2025 we’ll be laughing at the dated references as we show up to YPT’s 30th birthday celebration in our flying cars, but right now, it promises to be a great show.   And we’ll have birthday cake.  See you there!

Alison
Development Assistant

Responsibility

A few months ago I was tapped to be the Lead Artist for YPT’s Special Project with Fannie Mae’s Help the Homeless Program. YPT would partner with five schools and five community organizations to conduct workshops exploring issues of homelessness. The participants would create original writing exploring the topic and also engage in group discussion. My role would be to turn all of this material into a play.

This is a very different kind of playwriting than the kind we usually teach our students. It’s not what most people think of when they hear the word “playwright.” For me, being a playwright in a collaborative process begins with the admission that I do not know everything. (I am a somewhat notorious control freak, so this is harder than you might think!) That admission is what allows me to receive the gift of inspiration, stories, writing, and ideas from others. I got to pull from the memories and thoughts of so many when I cobbled this play together. Collaboration made it that much more rich.

I spent a lot of time at home listening to the audio recording of these workshops. Many of the people who participated had direct experience with homelessness, and the stories they told are compelling and heartbreaking. I was humbled by the generosity these men and women showed by sharing their lives with us. I became overwhelmed by a sense of responsibility to them.

This responsibility made me more creative. I used not only direct quotes, but questions, concepts, and ways of communicating. I listened to YPT Associate Artistic Director Patrick Torres ask, “Why would someone not want to help the homeless?” The reasons suggested by the participants became a character. The text spoken by this character is original, but his way of thinking and seeing the world were created in the workshops. The play reflects the people we met through this process in myriad ways.

The play, The Good Neighbor, will be performed as part of the Express Tour. The performance itself will also be an act of collaboration. You will have the opportunity to contribute your voice to the conversation. I hope you do.

                              

Nicole
Program Manager