YPT Then and Now

Happy New Year! Traditionally at this time, we present a countdown of things that we are excited for in the coming year. In honor of our 20th Anniversary, we are mixing it up a bit this year!

Start your 2015 with this list of ten YPT milestones: Then and Now. Join us in celebrating our past and gearing up for the future!

This list was first published on our Facebook page, and is being reposted here with a few edits and additions.

Writing

10

Then: In 1997, YPT celebrated our first year as an official nonprofit, offering programs in three schools in Washington, DC.

Now: YPT is projecting to serve 2,500 students in 27 schools across all eight wards of DC. We are honored to provide the opportunity for so many young people to share the power of their own voices with their communities! None of this would be possible without the support of our partner schools, our donors and funders, the DC theater community and the rest of the incredible YPT family. Thank you all for 20 great years!

 

9

ypt-pvogel-14Then: In 2012, YPT held our first ever Giving Voice Award Gala, honoring playwright Paula Vogel. The event was a huge success and Paula even led a playwriting workshop with our students beforehand!

Now: YPT’s 20th Anniversary Giving Voice Award Gala will be our biggest gala yet! The event will be held on Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 7pm at the National Press Club. Much more to come, so mark your calendars!

 

8

Then: In 2010, we launched our first In-School Playwriting Program at Lincoln Multicultural Middle School, establishing a continuum of programming between it and its feeder high school, Bell Multicultural High School.

Now: Through our Dream Impact Map, we are seeking to establish elementary, middle and high school continuums in Wards 1, 7 and 8 of DC. These will allow us to serve students in those neighborhoods three times during their scholastic careers! We can’t wait to work with them as they blossom into mature, creative and empowered adults.

 

7

Then: In 2011, YPT was excited to launch our programming at Powell Elementary School, reaching students in the Petworth neighborhood for the first time.

Now: We can’t wait to return to Powell this spring and expand into a new classroom as part of our 20 Classroom Challenge! (Cool fact: our 2015 Giving Voice Award recipient is an alumna of Powell. Who is she? Stay tuned to find out!)

Want to sponsor our new classroom at Powell? Visit our 20 Classroom Challenge page to learn more!

 

6

Then: In 2010, YPT received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. YPT student Mariana Pavon Sanchez was the only youth participant invited to speak at the ceremony. She told the large audience, which included Mariana at the White HouseFirst Lady Michelle Obama: “Don’t be afraid to express yourself through writing. It’s important.”

Now: YPT remounted Mariana’s play as part of our 20th Anniversary Festival, our celebration of 20 years of student voices and DC theater. GALA Hispanic Theatre brought Mariana’s play to life again in a powerful and resonant way!

 

5

Then: In 1999, YPT moved into the Josephine Butler Parks Center with four full-time staff members.

Now: We are proud to employ a staff of 11 artist-administrators, dozens of Teaching Artists and over 30 professional theater artists hired to bring our students’ work to life onstage and in the classroom.

Help us keep growing and support DC’s arts community by giving to YPT today!

 

4

Tech-284resThen: In 2008, YPT launched the Young Playwrights’ Workshop, an after-school ensemble open to students interested in creating and performing original, collaborative theater.

Now: YPT’s Workshop has grown more than we could have imagined, with students performing their original pieces in the Capital Fringe FestivalINTERSECTIONS and CulturalDC‘s annual Source Festival. Our students are currently hard at work on their piece for this year and we can’t wait to see their play premiere at Source on June 15, 2015 at 7pm.

 

3

Then: In 2008, we offered our first In-School Playwriting Program at Claremont Immersion School in Arlington, VA, expanding our flagship program beyond DC proper for the first time.

Now: In 2014, we took the next huge step, launching our first In-School Program at a school outside the DMV entirely: Graciela Garcia Elementary School in Pharr, Texas. Led by Teaching Artist Catherine DiSanza, Garcia’s fourth graders produced incredible work and improved their standardized test scores by 7 points in writing and 11 points in reading! The program has grown by leaps and bounds since then, and we can’t wait to reach even more of South Texas’ bright and inventive young people.

2

Then: In 2009, YPT premiered Choosing Change, a collaborative piece created by adjudicated youth at Oak Hill Academy, in partnership with Mentoring Today and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. Through poetry, Choosing Changeprose and interactive storytelling, Choosing Change shared the heart of those who traveled through the DC Juvenile Justice System – and how the system is regaining its heart.

Now: Oak Hill is now New Beginnings Youth Development Center, and YPT will bring our program to a new group of scholars there this spring. Recently, New Beginnings teacher Chelsea Kirk told us: “[Your] playwrights … helped my scholars see that their life stories and the struggles, successes, issues, and concerns that they face each day shouldn’t be hidden or untold, but … can come to life.” It is our honor to help these young people bring their stories into the world.

1

Then: In 1995, playwright Karen Zacarías returned to her hometown of DC with an MFA in playwriting and a deep desire to use her art to positively impact her community. She began volunteering teaching playwriting in one school and our story began.

Now: Now in our 20th year, YPT serves over 2,000 students per year across the DC metro area and beyond. Our professional productions bring over 25 student-written plays into the community every year, and our special projects have impacted young people from Texas to Detroit to Russia.

Ring in the new year with a gift to YPT and see where our work will take us next!

Lauren Watches Professional Actors Perform Her Play

History in the Making: Reflections from New Writers Now!

On Monday, February 7, 2011, an unprecedented number of community members from all over the DC metro area filled every available seat in GALA Hispanic Theatre to enjoy New Writers Now! – From Civil War to Civil Rights.

YPT presented original plays that explore the ways our history shapes us today, including I am a Slave by Maret School student Jack Brotman, Mercy, Mercy Me by Bell Multicultural High School student Ellen Hubbard, and Woodlawn, created collaboratively with residents and organizations throughout DC’s Ward 7.

After the performance, the audience was invited to reflect in writing on the plays they had just experienced. The results were insightful, honest, and poignant. Take a look at some of the responses, and feel free to comment below with your own thoughts!

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 The plays made me think about the big, often nasty and almost always glazed over and left unsaid conflicts in DC today.

  • How do newcomers to DC, who want to be part of a community, or part of creating a new “story”, interact with the existing community?
  • How do we get beyond gentrification/provocation, and the inherent conflicts of race and class that people are too ready to glaze over?
  • How do we talk to one another about development and progress without resorting to caricatures or engendering greater distrust and conflict?

Theater’s a good way to air these—thanks for your work.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

My own personal belief is that history should be preserved, but in order for history to last, it must be taught. In Woodlawn, I saw the generational gap where the personal history of the Elders had not been shared with the young people. Apathy can set in, and it corrodes the history. So the responsibility falls on the previous generation to teach the next generation the history and importance of a particular area.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

My father was buried not far from where I lived as a child, but we very rarely went to the site. This was partially due to the fact that we lost him so young, and it was just too painful to live with on a regular basis. I had gone to college and my mother had moved away before I decided to try and go back. I wandered through the rows of tombstones for twenty minutes before finding his. When the people in the play talked about the necessity for a place dedicated to them, a place where they live on, I was thrown back to the near-panic state I reached during the time that I couldn’t find his stone, the fear that, in never visiting the site and revisiting his memory, I might have lost him forever.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A young audience member responds to the play Woodlawn with a drawing.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I think about space, place, and meaning as inscribed in the built, or un-built environment. This play was incredible in helping me realize even more the importance of learning the history of those before me who have inscribed meaning in place. And that each person has a voice, and it should be heard.

So thank you, for telling these stories.

A loyal fan and neighbor,
Liz, age 22
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you to everyone who came out to GALA Hispanic Theatre to celebrate our playwrights on Monday. It meant so much to see you all there.

We hope to see you all at the New Play Festival in April. Click here to learn more.

Raina
Community Engagement Associate

YPT Collaborates with Life Pieces to Masterpieces to Tell the Story of Historic Woodlawn Cemetery

Over the past three weeks, I’ve had the immense pleasure to work with the young men of Life Pieces to Masterpieces (LPTM) on one of our current special projects, a new play we’re creating with the Ward 7 community about historic Woodlawn Cemetery.  As soon as I knew we’d be working in Ward 7, my home neighborhood, I knew LPTM would be a great partner for it.  LPTM is an extraordinary mentorship program for young men in Ward 7.  They give young men life and art skills that allow them to embrace their past and present and prepare for their future.  The young men explore leadership, responsibility, community and create paintings based on their own life stories.  Our group, the Legacy class, mostly consisting of 11 year old young men, began working with me about two and a half weeks ago on workshops exploring Woodlawn Cemetery, its history and the history of those interred at Woodlawn.  We explored how the site relates to our neighborhood and how learning about some of the extraordinary people buried at Woodlawn can help all of us better understand our history and prepare for our future.  For example, Senator Blanche Bruce, born a slave who ultimately became the first African American to serve a full term in the US Senate, is buried there.  Congressman Langston, first African American Congressman from Virginia and first civilian dean of Howard University Law School, is buried there.  As well as thousands of extraordinary women who were scholars, artists, educators and homemakers — a total of almost 36,000 people, many in unmarked graves, having been moved from previous sites throughout the city.

After we explored the history and the young men took a tour of the cemetery, we began sketching.  They sketched about 15 pictures and then chose 7 of those to paint.  First their teachers set up huge blank canvasses on the wall.  Each young man was given three primary colors and tasked with creating their own rich textures and colors and painting the canvasses freely, resulting in about 12 different colors of canvas.  Once these were dry the next day, the students figured out what figures or shapes they needed to create to convey their sketch onto canvas.  They then picked from the larges canvases they’d painted and drew the shapes on the back, then cutting these shapes out of the canvases.  Then they painted other canvases as backdrops for their paintings and, once they were dry, laid out the figures, symbols and landmarks from Woodlawn they’d created onto the backdrop.  They then sewed these patterns and shapes onto the canvas and stretched the canvases onto wooden frames.

The seven resulting paintings, all inspired by Woodlawn, will serve as the backdrop and setting for our readings of the play we’re creating with the community.  Plus, these young men have created poems and monologues about their insights and inspirations from Woodlawn, all of which will be added into the stew of the play, mixing their voices into a tapestry of voices about Woodlawn that will not only share our history but also our community.   The resulting paintings are extraordinary and inspired — I can’t wait for you to see them and meet these young men at the readings we’ll hold on September 11th at Harman Hall downtown, and at Woodlawn Cemetery, as part of a huge volunteer and service celebration at the site.  I hope you’ll come see us and join in our community!

 

You can learn more about YPT’s Woodlawn Cemetery project on YPT’s website.

You can learn more about Life Pieces to Masterpieces here.

David
Producing Artistic Director and CEO