Join YPT’s Get 15 to Give $15 Friend-raising Challenge and Win an Original Theatrical Piece ALL ABOUT YOU

“I was a very shy student, afraid to speak out. And here I am addressing the First Lady of the United States – and it’s all thanks to Young Playwrights’ Theater, to the arts and the humanities and to the power of my own ideas.”

Mariana Pavón Sánchez, YPT Student, The White House

As you’ve probably heard by now, YPT received a very special 15th birthday present this year: we won the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. This award, presented by First Lady Michelle Obama at a private White House ceremony, honors YPT for making a marked difference in the lives of young people by improving academic scores and graduation rates, enhancing life skills, and developing positive relationships with peers and adults. Administered by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, it is the highest honor in the nation for a program like ours.

We want to provide more students like Mariana with the opportunity to achieve their dreams, but we can’t do it without you.

In this challenging economic climate, we are working to raise $50,000 by December 31 to ensure we have the resources to continue providing our nationally recognized programming.

This is where you come in. You know us. You love us. And we love you back. Over the past fifteen years, you have come to our performances, helped teach and nurture our students, followed our progress, and given generously to support our programs. We never could have come this far without you.

Will you help us?

We invite you to join YPT’s Get 15 to Give $15 Friend-Raising challenge, in honor of YPT’s 15th birthday. By participating in the challenge, you show our students that their voices count, their ideas are valuable and their dreams are achievable. You also earn the chance to win a Big Prize (see details below).

Here’s how it works:

  1. You send out a personal request to your friends, telling them why you care about YPT programming, and asking them to donate $15 to YPT this fall. Download a Friend-raising Email Template here (We encourage you to tweak it and make it your own!) Be creative about how you ask your friends. Call them, post about the contest on Facebook and Twitter, host a party/concert/bake sale to raise money for YPT, rent a blow-horn and take the challenge to the streets. This is your gig. Think about the best way to reach your community.
  2. At least 15 of your friends send at least $15 to YPT. Be sure your friends note that they are donating because of you (that will put you in the running for the Big Prize).
  3. The supporter who inspires the largest number of gifts to YPT (any gift we receive with a a note that mentions your name counts toward the competition) wins the Big Prize.

So what’s the Big Prize?

An original theatrical piece. About you.

That’s right. YPT students will be so grateful for the donations you inspire to ensure their programming this spring that they will thank the supporter who brings in the largest number of donations by creating a new piece of theater inspired by your life.

Cool, right?

Thank you, in advance, for being amazing and taking the Get 15 to Give $15 Friend-raising Challenge this fall. Together, I know we can reach our $50,000 goal and ensure that YPT’s programs are available for our students this spring, and for many years to come.

Development Director

From Tetris to Twitter: David on New Communication in Cyberspace

If you’re like me, quickly approaching 40 and remembering the days in college when you’d play Tetris on the little black and white screen of your Macintosh computer and “email” involved typing a whole lot of backslashes, you may be daunted by the recent onslaught of social media tools swirling through cyberspace.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Facebook and how it’s allowed us to reconnect with YPT alumni from years past.  And I’m starting to understand Twitter – though really, why do we need to know that much about that many people? And managing them all at once can get overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve started to use HootSuite at YPT to streamline these tools. But even though I’ve received a full tutorial from someone under 30, I’m having trouble using it. Maybe I don’t have the time to focus on it? Or maybe I’m just resisting one more app on my overloaded Blackberry? But maybe I’m also longing for the days when the best ways to share your latest news included 1) picking up the phone and saying it, 2) writing a note and passing it or 3) pulling somebody aside and sharing it – face to face.  And I’m wondering, as we quickly declare our thoughts to the world on everything under the sun, from coffee to candidates, how much time do we now spend pondering those thoughts, forming those opinions or considering those words?

At YPT we try to give students the time and space to think, consider, and then speak, through their characters. Later this year we’ll be launching YPText, a new initiative focused on communicating and collaborating with students and the community via text messaging.  As we explore this new type of writing, I hope we can help students find new ways to still take the time and space to think, so that they can experience those crucial moments of self-discovery, when we form our own opinions of things, our view of the world, and our view of ourselves. 

As we’re running with HootSuite, Twitter, and Facebook to give you a window into the work, please let us know what you think – and how you think we’re doing. See you in cyberspace and, hopefully, in real space, soon.

Producing Artistic Director and CEO

David Speaks on the Role of the Arts in Students’ Lives – Why We Do What We Do

This year I and YPT were honored to receive the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation’s Exponent Award for visionary leadership. On Monday, June 7th, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, we received the award during a fun and compelling ceremony that highlighted the importance of the work of nonprofits in our community. I am so grateful to the Meyer Foundation, for the award, but also for the simple opportunity to share a few thoughts about why we do what we do. I’ve had several requests since that evening to post or share my remarks in some way, so here they are. I hope you’ll in some way connect with how we at YPT feel about the arts in students’ lives.

Monday, June 7, 2010
“Thank you so much. I’m so grateful to Julie, Rick, Carmen, Amy, the board of directors and everyone at the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, to have their amazing support in my life and the life of Young Playwrights’ Theater. As those of us running organizations know all too well, the proof is in the people. And the Meyer Foundation is filled with true partners, true advocates and true friends to us in the nonprofit sector. I’ve dedicated my life to helping students express themselves and engage the world around them. Because I believe as much as we need to eat, sleep and clothe ourselves to be human, we need to express ourselves. We need to be able to share with our neighbors and the rest of the world what’s bothering us, how others can help us and what we fear or dream of for our future. And that beyond basic reading, writing and arithmetic, students need to be able to think for themselves. They need to be able to imagine, envision, and explain. They need to understand – not just know, but to understand what they’re learning and why. They need to be able to stand up, put their ideas forward and defend them. And they need to be able to inspire and be inspired.

I know that as I reflect on important moments in my life when I truly learned something, most of them didn’t happen sitting silently at a desk. Most of them were experiences, conversations, dialogues with other people that taught me something I didn’t know and stirred something inside me I didn’t know I had. And in this age of Facebook, Twitter and texting there’s an even greater understanding that comes from being in a room face to face, explaining with our whole selves what we mean, and learning about the world from direct experience and dialogue with our fellow human beings.

So as we’re ensuring that critical needs are met in these challenging times, and that students can do well on the latest standardized tests, I think we need to consider not only what will get us through the night, through the next month or next couple of years, but also what we want to be, what we want to look like and what we want to represent when we get through it.  What kind of society do we want to have? How will students compete in the global arena of ideas if they have none to share? And how can we envision our future if we’re not able to dream?

At Young Playwrights’ Theater we give students the tools they need to engage the world.  And in turn they share their dreams, their fears, their hopes and their visions for the future.  Every student writes a play. Every student hears their play performed by professional actors in the classroom. We share the students’ work with their community through readings, festivals and tours and we pay the students for the opportunity to produce their plays. The students introduce their work and speak about why they wrote what they wrote; they drive rehearsals and recognize their own power in the process. Truancy rates drop when we’re in the classroom. Homework completion soars with our assignments.  We see with our assessments that students’ critical and creative thinking improve dramatically during the program. And teachers, students and parents tell us how much the program has meant to them. Because for many of our students, it’s the first time someone has asked them what they think. It’s their first time to really engage in class.  It’s their first time to tell their stories.  And it’s their first time to realize their own true potential – a revelation of who they are, and who they could be.

Tonight, this honor helps me and all of us at YPT know that what we do matters – that having a vision, and thinking outside the box, makes a difference; that we have partners who believe in our mission; and that service toward a greater good is possible, even today. And that’s a huge gift. I want to thank my fellow recipients, who bring hope, love and strength to so many; thank you to my amazing staff at Young Playwrights’ Theater, Patrick Torres, Brigitte Moore, Elizabeth Andrews, who inspire me every day with their dedication, their passion and their generosity; to our wonderful board of directors and our amazing chair Brian Kennedy; thank you to the greatest Founder a successor could wish for, Karen Zacarias, and of course to our students, for their dedication, their inspiration and their awe-inspiring work; and to my family –  my parents, my sister, my beautiful wife Alex, my son Henry and my two-week old daughter Della for their love and grace in my life. I am grateful to do this work and I am so very grateful to be here tonight.  Thank you very, very much.”

Click here to see more info on the award and the video compilation of the evening, produced by the Meyer Foundation.

Hope to see you soon!

Producing Artistic Director and CEO