Introducing YPT’s Race for a Cause™ Superhero Teams!

Have you heard the exciting news?

This fall, YPT is thrilled to be partnering with Acumen Solutions for their 4th Annual Race for a Cause™ 8K and 1Mile Fun Run race on October 14, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia!

 YPT was selected as one of ten charities benefitting from the race. It’s up to each runner (or enthusiastic walker!) to pick which charity your participation will benefit … and the more people who register to run for YPT, the more funding we receive!

So you’re one of our amazing supporters and you want to help out.  But a competitive race? At YPT we’re all very excited to be participating in the Race for a Cause but – confession time — we’re not what you’d call competitive, or even recreational, runners.  Guess what … you don’t have to be!

Whatever your level of fitness, you can participate in the Race for a Cause™, and we will be cheering you all the way to the finish line, with the help of some very special motivators.

Acumen is inviting everyone to “Be a Superhero” just by running for a charity, so we thought that this exciting challenge called for some of our own favorite superheroes! Check out the three fun YPT teams you can join, each led by an inspirational YPT superhero. Once you register for the race, email abeyrle@yptdc.org or post on our Facebook page to let us know which team you’re joining, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and this blog throughout the summer for team updates, photos, videos, quotes and stories featuring our team leaders as we get pumped up for October!

(Note: Our superhero team levels are YPT-specific, so when registering you’ll have two options: the 1 mile or the 8k. But you can register for the 8k planning to run competitively or walk/run – there’s no time limit for completion, and no rule that says you must run the whole time!)

TEAM SUPERGIRL

Team Leader: Supergirl (from A Jewel of a Date by Dakota Wenberg) #teamsupergirl

So you’re ready to run!  Maybe you’re a marathon runner who eats 8ks for breakfast. Or maybe you’re a regular runner and ready to take it to the next level.  With Supergirl as your team leader, we’ll help you win the race in the morning, save the world’s most expensive diamond in the afternoon, and still have time for a date with Jake in the evening! Join Supergirl and YPT staff members Alison and Pete, and register to run the 8k (and claim your share of over $2,000 in prizes, awarded to top race winners!)  And know that 5 miles is further than Alison has ever run in her life, so you’re guaranteed to at least beat her.

TEAM MAGNET DUDE

Team Leader: Magnet Dude (from Magnet Dude by Kyrtham Franco) #teammagnetdude

So you’re a recreational runner who logs a few miles in your neighborhood, but you aren’t sure about running an 8k. Or maybe you just enjoy really long, athletic walks.  Magnet Dude is here to help you successfully complete your very first 8k!  When you register for the 8k you can plan to “run/walk” like YPT staff members Brigitte and Nicole.  Whatever pace you choose, we’ll be there to cheer you on as you cross the finish line!

TEAM FLATWORM

Team Leader: Flatworm (From Flatworm’s Courageous Act by Lauren White) #teamflatworm

So you’re not a runner. Nothing wrong with that! Maybe participating in a race is as intimidating to you as climbing that peanut brittle wall was for Flatworm.  But Flatworm conquered his fear, and so can you! Register for the 1 mile format – it’s a great option for those who’d prefer a relaxing walk, as well as for families and young runners. No training needed — although Flatworm will be sharing tips for power walking for our one-milers, including staff members Liza and Laurie! Your registration still helps us win funds to help more students, and on race day you’ll get to watch all those sweaty 8k-ers cross the finish line while basking in the healthy glow of your one-mile stroll.

So pick your team, and click here to register now! All runners get a race shirt (or cape if you’d prefer!) and Acumen is offering a special early bird rate if you register before August 1. The race will take place at 8am on Sunday, October 14, 2012 in Arlington, Virgina (easily metro accessible). For more information about the race, click here.

No matter how you choose to participate, you’ll be helping YPT win the funds we need to say “yes” to more deserving classrooms this school year and serve more students than ever before with free, innovative playwriting and theater arts programming and performances. And that makes you our superhero.

Thank you, as always, for your support. See you on the training course!

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

Love Stinks

New Writers Now! – Mad Love is coming up soon! In preparation for this Anti-Valentine’s Day celebration, the YPT staff decided to share some of our worst date stories. Which do you think is truly the worst date?

1. In high school, I went to prom with a guy I had a huge crush on, but nothing ever happened, and eventually the school year ended and I moved past that.  I found out months later that he was dating my best friend behind my back during that entire time.  Definitely do not miss high school.

2. I went on one date with a girl in college, and I thought it went pretty well. But then I didn’t hear from her for a couple weeks. I figured she wasn’t interested. My suspicions were confirmed when a friend told me she was seeing someone else. Then, out of the blue, she called me and asked to come over to my house. When she arrived, she said, “We need to talk.” She had come over to break up with me! After one date! It was incredibly awkward, and I couldn’t get her to stop until she got through her whole breakup speech.

3. When I was in high school, I had an enormous crush on this boy in my theater class.  He worked at the local movie theater, so I applied for a job there to get closer to him.  I was hired, and while I loved hanging out with him, our boss was an enormous jerk who loved to make our lives miserable (he actually smeared his hand over a window I had just cleaned once to make me do it again).  Anyway, after a few months I got up the nerve to ask the boy to see Woody Allen’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion with me one night after work.  He said yes, and after a week of being terrified about it, the day arrived.  At the end of our shift, however, our boss decided to scream at us for half an hour, about what I can’t begin to remember.  By the time he was done, we had missed half the movie, and we were both so irritated that any hope I had for romance was gone.  I got over the crush soon after, but we did agree a couple of years later that if neither of us are married by Valentine’s Day 2017, we’ll meet on top of the Empire State Building and get married.  We signed our oath on a popcorn bag, so maybe we’ll end up together after all.

4. I once went on a blind date to some sort of holiday festival. The guy was awkward but really nice. All of a sudden, he said he wanted to check out what was going on at the other end and he’d be back. I thought it was weird, but went with it. Ten minutes later, I got a text from him saying, “I don’t know. Some girls kiss on the first date, right?” Clearly, this text message was not meant for me. He came back a few minutes later and I realized I would not be able to ignore this, as eventually he would look at his phone and see what had happened. I handed him the phone. He grabbed it with a blank smile, but as soon as he began reading the text message, his face morphed into an expression of sheer terror as he tried to figure out what was going on. “Wait, what? How did you..?” he fumbled.  “Oh… Oh.” When he understood, his face read utter defeat. In the end, I gave him a pity kiss. Unfortunately, he thought that meant we were in a relationship, which made the inevitable end to this story much more painful.

5. When I was a freshman in college, a guy I barely knew invited me to grab lunch at a local diner. Everything was going fine until he decided to propose to me (ring and all) as I was taking a bite of my grilled cheese sandwich. I thought he was kidding at first, and I started to laugh, but he immediately looked crestfallen, and I realized he was serious. He said something about love at first sight, and something else about fate and carrying around his mother’s ring “just in case.” I turned him down, but I’m pretty sure he got married before he graduated college. (If at first you don’t succeed…)

Now it’s your turn. Think you’ve really had the worst date ever? Send us your story and, if we like it, we’ll post it in the lobby at New Writers Now! – Mad Love. Audience members will vote on their favorite. To be included in the contest, email your best story of angst and betrayal to lharbison@yptdc.org by Friday, February 10.

Liza
Communications and Graphic Design Associate

What’s So Great About YPT? Ask the Students.

This Wednesday evening, a group of very special guests dropped by our YPT Board meeting. Five members of YPT’s Young Playwrights’ Workshop and new Student Advisory Council shared pizza and cookies with our Board of Directors and talked about their experience working with YPT.

They had participated in YPT programming in a variety of ways – as students in our In-School Playwriting Program and our after-school Young Playwrights’ Workshop, and as featured playwrights and performers in our New Play Festival and our New Writers Now! reading series. They were YPT experts – a true authority on our work in and out of the classroom.

Listening to these students share their thoughts – on YPT and the value of arts education, on school, on their dreams for the future – was deeply inspiring.

One student described her experience as a shy student, afraid to speak out in class. She credited YPT with helping her find her voice and share her ideas with confidence. (Listening to her speak, it was hard to believe that she had ever been a quiet student.) “I want to thank you,” she told the board. “Without you, I wouldn’t be here speaking like this today.”

Another student said that YPT is like a family. She explained that YPT’s Young Playwrights’ Workshop provides her with the opportunity to interact with students that would never be friends or even necessarily feel comfortable speaking with one another in school. At YPT, these students are equals, removed from the clique culture of the school day, and working together to create something bigger than themselves.

One Board member asked the students what they would say to a principal or administrator if he or she decided to cut YPT from their menu of in-school and after-school programming. All five students vehemently responded, “We would never let that happen.”

One of the students – the one who described herself as formerly shy – explained that YPT teaches students to learn and think creatively, and that this kind of thinking is the glue that connects and holds all the other academic and extracurricular activities together. “Without YPT,” she said, “everything else would just shatter.”

Another Board member asked the students how YPT could make their experience even better. The students threw out a number of ideas to build on existing programs – like finding ways to include YPT alumni in programming after they move on to college.  They expressed a strong desire to return to YPT after graduation to serve as mentors and advocates for their younger peers. (We think that’s a great idea.)

One of the younger students told the Board Chair that we should find a way to let kids know that writing a play with YPT is different and better than “just another writing assignment.”

“What makes it better?” the Board Chair asked.

The student shrugged. “It’s fun.”

Interested in meeting our students and joining in on the fun? Check out New Writers Now! – Mad Love, on February 13, our next free professional performance of student work (and our first-ever anti-Valentine’s Day celebration).


Brigitte
Deputy Director

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

Insights from YPT’s Summer Intern

Throughout my primary schooling, I was fortunate enough to have always been a student of the theater. In senior year of high school, I participated in Young Playwrights’ Theater’s In-School Playwriting Program. At the time, I was thrilled to have a creative release built into a school curriculum which was getting old. I was asked to use my voice and be heard in a way that boosted my confidence and excitement for college. Now that I have graduated high school, I cannot help but be concerned with my new role as a student of life; “the real world,” as they call it. The inspiration I’d harnessed with YPT quickly turned from creative momentum to pressure. The question in the forefront of my brain changed from, “What can I do?” to “What will I do?!” As a YPT student I’d learned that playwriting could be a therapeutic tool for expression and communication, but how could my love for theater translate back to the community?

I came to YPT, and they allowed me in yet again, but this time, as an intern. My summer spent with YPT has taught me how theater breeches the confines of the stage and expands to the office, and how the office can extend to the community.

Possibly the greatest reward of working with YPT is that I have gained a more thorough understanding of why theater works with education. Through reading YPT’s curricula and implementing them with youth at summer camps, I have been able to make the connection between the art I love and its educational function. I recall that as a YPT student, I was asked to take responsibility for my voice, to find inspiration and put it to work for me. That training has been put to use in so many ways, even in writing this blog post. Its value, however, is now much better understood since I have also experienced teaching this skill.

YPT gave me the opportunity to work alongside professional teaching artists to implement the curriculum we’d been working on at a summer camp workshop for five to seven year olds. At first the course was all fun and games. The simple drama-oriented games we played were catalysts for releasing energy, and also focusing it. In playing games such as “Kitty Wants a Corner” or “Doctor’s Office,” the class was forced to listen to each other and communicate as directly as possible, given the game’s rules.  Imaginations went wild during these games, and it was our job to give the students tools to put that imagination to work. When we got to creating characters and their enemies, the private lives of students began to peek through the short monologues they were writing. It was incredible to watch these young minds recreate the young lives they were living through the incarnations of a horse who hated people, or a princess who could kiss butterflies, or a pencil who hated the eraser.

In our short hour-long workshops we would explore our physical expression and bodily limits through games, and then we would breech those limits with pen on paper. I helped students sound out the spelling of words and figure out how to speak the thoughts of their characters. The effect of this hands-on learning was strikingly vivid with students so young. The idea of taking on another’s role or voice was radical to them, but as they picked up on it, I could see them really feeling for these characters and articulating more depth into the character’s own psyche.

When we moved on to writing dialogues, it became clear that this class was about more than artistic expression. We were guiding these kids through conflict resolution, and teaching the value of diction and clarity when communicating. We were witnessing the power of imagination, and then offering the tools to give that power a purpose. I would read out a line from a student’s script and the response was either an explosion of new ideas, or an awe-inspired stare. We were giving these students their own words, breathing life into them, and revealing the great influence of language and their power over it.

Back in the office, I would plug away at taking inventory and organizing YPT’s resources, and work with the YPT crew to create their own ongoing, living work of art. In the classroom, my job was to offer the gift of education that would keep on giving— in the students’ social and academic lives. In the office, YPT staff were doing the same. The job of the playwright is to envision all the aspects and needs of a performance. The job of YPT is to envision all the needs of every player—be they the teaching artist, the professional actors, the students, or the community—and then to provide it in order to facilitate the ongoing creation of art and sociality.

The variety of work I have been able to do over this short summer is a testament to the type of organization this is, and the type of people who work here, and further, to the nature of the theater arts. My creative energies have been put to use doing housekeeping of props, keeping in touch with YPT contributors and alumni, working the curriculum hands-on with kids, as well as behind the scenes doing research, and just bearing witness to all the things that go into this world. The staff never fail to have students in mind as they plan events and productions, reach out to community, develop teaching artists, brainstorm opportunities to continue work with former students, reinvigorate curricula, keep up with celebrities (such as Josh Groban) who support arts education, give time to individual students who just want somebody to read their work, or even invest in educating the summer intern!

These people are lovers of art and education, and theater seems to have the perfect make-up for such a combination. Through the medium of performance, YPT gives students the opportunity to turn real life into art and art into real life, thus revealing the artists to themselves. The staff themselves work like artists, drawing inspiration from the youth and using the local community as a resource to turn ideas into action. I was lucky enough to be one such resource this summer, and now I can see, simply enough, potential, in every interaction and every person.

Sarah Giffin
YPT Summer Intern and Playwright Alumna

Nicole Reflects on Summer at YPT

Summer is kind of a weird time for YPT. School’s out, but we’re still here. There’s stuff going on – the Woodlawn project, a great program with Horizons at Maret, our collaboration with Fannie Mae’s Help the Homeless Program – but it’s not nearly as busy as it will be again in September. During the summer, there’s a lot of time to think. Patrick Torres (our Associate Artistic Director) and I are spending a lot of time thinking together about the YPT curricula. Every summer we create a mountain of work for ourselves by refusing to rest until this program is perfect, and refusing to settle for good enough.

Fortunately we have help. We have a lot of vehicles for getting feedback. While school is in session, teaching artists send me workshop reports every week. They let me know what went well and what went wrong. Then we have an official post mortem where we talk through everything, workshop by workshop. We also pass out surveys to the students to find out what they think of YPT’s program. (New and improved student survey: in the works!) Teachers evaluate us too. My job as Program Manager is to synthesize all of this information so we can refine what we do, based on what everyone wants.

It’s exciting. The luxury of time means the luxury to dream. We question everything we think we know. We see the big picture and identify priorities. One of the coolest things we’ve come up with as a goal is that students will have more fun this year. Because writing is fun! Expressing yourself is fun! Being creative is fun! And fun is important. I believe we should be fostering a love of learning in our students. In 20 years, it’s less important that they remember the difference between a monologue and a dialogue, and more important that they remember how awesome it was when they heard their play read by professional actors.

So if any of our future students are reading, you should know that we’re going to plan the heck out of this curriculum. I won’t rest until you are having fun.

Nicole
Program Manager