Kicking Off the New Play Festival

During the spring and fall of 2010, hundreds of students in YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program wrote original plays about everything from vampires to gangs to superheroes. Of the over 500 plays in this pool, a reading committee composed of staff, teaching artists, actors and community members narrowed the group to 15. As part of the committee, I enjoyed having unique insight into our students’ creative processes. I was struck by the overall originality and eloquence of our young people, and especially of those we selected to produce.

For this reason, I was incredibly excited to meet our fifteen student playwrights at the New Play Festival Kick-Off Party on Saturday, February 12. Though I had never met most of these students, I felt I already knew them. Somehow reading someone’s play feels like reading the playwright, even when their story is completely imagined.

We played a game at the party that made the connection between the playwrights and their plays even more pronounced. Students were divided into groups by the night of the New Play Festival they will be produced and asked to embody their protagonist, working together to create a tableau. Program Manager Nicole Jost read play descriptions aloud and the audience had to match the play descriptions with their playwrights. The way the students embodied their characters said as much about their own personalities as those of their protagonists.

The first time Nicole called “action!”, the playwrights that will be produced on April 11 sprung into their tableau. Lauren White immediately flopped onto the floor in imitation of her superhero protagonist, Flatworm, and Marco Anderson growled into place as his fearsome feline, Mr. Jinks. Nneamaka Iwobi struck a confident pose as her singing-sensation character Kelly, while Paul McCoyer looked greedily at imaginary currency as Jack in his satirical play Money, Money, Money.

The tableaus for the Tuesday, April 12, and Wednesday, April 13, performances of the New Play Festival were more subtle. Johana Cedillos and Amber Faith Walton exhibited thoughtful creativity by melding their characters’ dark confusion into a combined tableau representing their plays Scarred with Faces and Changing Tides: Judge Me Gently. Taj Vereen stood in composed calm as the not-yet-existent protagonist of his play The Concept of Conception,  while Rasheeda Williams and Saviya Brown moved broadly to display the strength of their characters Morgan and Derrick from A Thin Line Between Her & Us and Taken 4 Granted.

I loved seeing the different creative energies in the room and watching the way the playwrights interacted with each other, their families, and the community members celebrating them. The party was a reminder of what makes YPT unique among theaters in DC.

Yes, we do produce awesome plays. But we also produce awesome students.

The Kick-Off Party was the beginning of a long process of dramaturgy for the playwrights. Click here to learn more about the playwrights and their plays, and don’t forget to celebrate with us at the New Play Festival on April 11, 12, and 13, at 7:30pm, at GALA Hispanic Theatre!

Raina
Community Engagement Associate

YPT Kicks Off Our Fifteenth Birthday Season

After working at Young Playwrights’ Theater for about two weeks, I attended the New Writer’s Now! Kick-Off Party last Tuesday evening – my first YPT event! As the new Development Assistant, I’ve jumped right into updating contacts in the database, putting together mailings and trying to learn the names of everyone and everything, from staff, to board members, to important programs. So it was a nice change of pace to attend the New Writers Now! Kick-Off and see a first-hand example of one of these projects, and even match a few faces to the names I’ve seen in our giant database.

The party was small and intimate, with everyone sitting around tables in the YPT studio space chatting and, in my case, meeting new people. The variety of attendees really represented all different parts of the YPT family. I met students, friends and family of students, local actors, staff and even board members and supporters. As we sat around snacking on treats (including our artistically arranged cracker and cheese plates) I was able to talk to some of the students that YPT works with, and I had a great conversation about social media and DC-area theater with a board member and a long-time supporter of YPT. At larger organizations, funders and board members can often seem inaccessible and intimidating to a new staff member, so it was great how friendly and approachable everyone at the Kick-Off Party was, and how enthusiastic they were about the new season. The event also included teaser scenes from a few upcoming YPT student works, and as someone who has never seen a YPT reading before, I was very impressed by the quality of the work. It’s events like these that help us get through the occasional long day of data entry or stuffing envelopes, and I’m eager to see the full plays in the coming months!

Overall, I think the New Writers Now! Kick-Off Party summed up my impression of YPT so far: a small company with a family-like feel, yet made up of a wide variety of people drawn together by their enthusiasm for the arts and their support for the unique work that YPT does. I’m amazed by the impressive number of students that we reach (especially considering our small core staff) and I’m beyond thrilled to have joined the YPT team. I’m looking forward to meeting more people and seeing some great new theater in the upcoming season!

Click here to see photos from the New Writers Now! Kick-Off Party.

Alison
Development Assistant