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

Thankful

It’s that time of year again. Time for us all to reflect and give thanks for the things in our lives that make us, well, thankful.

In the spirit of the season, I want to take a moment to share some of the things YPT is thankful for this year.

We are thankful, first and foremost, for the bright, insightful, inspiring students who are the living, beating heart of our company. You are why we come to work each day. Your dreams are our mission.

We are thankful for our hard-working staff and the devoted and talented army of professional teaching artists, actors, directors, stage managers, and designers who work tirelessly throughout the year to give voice to the dreams and imaginations of our students.

We are thankful for our volunteers – our dedicated board of directors, our Community Ambassadors, and our network of program alumni. You are the community voice of YPT.

We are thankful for our community of supporters – the thousands of people who attend our free performances of student work each year, our very cool friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter, and the corporate and nonprofit partners, donors and funders who give so generously each year to make our programming possible.

We are very lucky to know so many creative, passionate and giving people.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
Without you, there would be no YPT.

 

Brigitte
Development Director

Letters from the Audience: New Writers Now!-Outside In

After the October 4New Writers Now! – Outside In staged reading, the audience got a chance to put in their two cents. We asked them to write a letter to a character in one of the plays, invited them to share the letters out loud, then gave those letters to the playwrights. We heard funny, witty, and adorable letters read aloud. Here is a sample…..feel free to respond below with your own letters to Block Man, Moon Man, Timmy the Turtle, or other inspiring characters from YPT plays!

Dear Block Man,

Your courage in the face of harassment was inspiring. I’m a firm believer that no matter what your size you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to. You are a shining example of that. Thank you for reminding me to keep my head up and keep going because in the end it’ll all work out okay.

Dear Turtle,

I loved when you said that the gate was so shiny. It was great.

Dear Mr. Block Man,

I too have felt like an outsider many times in my life. Overcoming prejudices is something you should be proud of. Instead of lashing out or creating more anger in the world, you were able to create peace and help others during your time of need. More people should follow in your footsteps and bring love and joy to the world as opposed to hate.

All the best,

Jayme J

Dear Block Man,

I was most struck by your experience as an outsider—you represented such a simple form, a shape, that in its 4-sides represented so much inequality in the world we live in (not to sound overly dramatic—but its true).

Your daily experiences represented to me, not any specific forms of racism or prejudices but rather how people in the city tend to treat each other (in lesser extremes, or course).

Often, we don’t offer each other help, to catch the bus, buy a sandwich, find the right train- because we are too self-focused on our own days and tasks at hand. It would be great to remember that at times we all feel like blocks, and would do better to think outside the box (or block?) and help each other out.

Thank you,

Liz

Dear Steik,

I understand your hesitation in accepting the blockman into your neighborhood. His form is unfamiliar and strange and unlike your own, though, when you think about it, your love of a feline could also be said to be a bit strange. Four-legged, furry, and rough-tongued, she is also so unlike you in form and mind. But I hope that realizing the non-uniformity, the heterogeneous and often bizarre nature of love will lead you to the acceptance of your perfectly wonderful neighbor, Blockman.

My best,

Maggie

We received some amazing drawings as well!

We can’t wait to see you all at the next YPT performance!

Raina
Community Engagement Associate

YPT Summer Plays Are Heating Up!

This summer, YPT has once again joined the Horizons Program at the Maret School. The Horizons program helps students prepare for the next school year by challenging the students academically, and inspiring a love of learning. YPT works specifically with students about to enter the 6th grade, which is a big transition – the leap to middle school! I remember the summer before I started middle school. I was very anxious about the new school building and all of the older students. I would have benefitted from a program like Horizons, so it is a pleasure to spend the summer with these amazing students. The playwrights have been  focused on character development and conflict in drama. They have just spent a considerable amount of time working on creating their protagonist and antagonist, and I have to admit the plays are looking very promising! We have one character who is a movie star, but his agent is withholding all of his money in order to build a bigger house; another character is falling victim to the other women on her basketball team because they don’t want her to be the captain anymore; and there is a Mother fighting to stop her daughter from getting a tattoo because she is afraid it will ruin her child’s dream of being a teacher. I look forward to seeing where all of these journeys end up! If the energy and passion of these students is reflected in their characters, then these plays are going to be incredible!

Patrick
Associate Artistic Director