I’m Running for YPT Because …

It’s hard to believe, but the mornings are getting cooler, shelves are stocked with back-to-school supplies, and here at YPT we are gearing up for an amazing new year of programming and performances. Summer is almost over, and in less than two months, YPT staff and friends will be lacing up their running (or walking) shoes to Race for a Cause on October 14th!

Why run for YPT? For a little inspiration, check out some of our staff members’ personal motivations, and register today to join us! Already registered? Share why you’re running for YPT in the comments section, or on our Facebook page and help inspire others. Let’s show Acumen Solutions that we have the best community of support around!

Name: Nicole, Associate Artistic Director

Team: Magnet Dude

I’m running for YPT because …

I want to say yes to all the schools on our waiting list. There is so much demand for our programming – we need to grow so we can serve more students!

I run … never. Never ever. That’s dedication right there! I’ll be huffing and puffing with the “go at your own pace” crew. In fact, I’ll probably be behind the crew. But I’ll be there!

Name: Alison, Development and Producing Associate

Team: Supergirl

I’m running for YPT because …

I want my first official race to support an organization that I care deeply about.

I run … sometimes. A couple miles on the treadmill, or a few laps around my block on the rare occasion when it’s not a steam bath outside. But I’m ready to go beyond my comfort zone, and what better reason to participate in my first 8k than running to support the arts, and YPT’s goal to serve more students than ever before this year! If our students are brave enough to share their dreams, hopes and fears with the world through their plays, I think I can make it to the finish line. I just may need a very large Gatorade.

Name: Laurie, Program Associate

Team: Flatworm

I’m running for YPT because …

Finally, I will be able to truly compete in something involving physical ability. 

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been extremely competitive, but have never been able to channel that into sports because I’m pathetically unathletic.  When it came to geography bees or Crypto (an awesome math game from my freshman algebra class) I was known to flip desks and scream “IN YOUR FACE!” when I was on a winning streak, but in gym class I always hung back.  I mean, I rocked at badminton when we got to play that, but anything that involved real coordination or strength was not my forte.  But now that I am in the Flatworm 1 Mile Walk/Run group, I feel confident that I can dominate over the children and elderly that will be running alongside me.  Finally, I will be able to truly compete in something involving physical ability.  Please have “Eye of the Tiger” cued up for my victory lap around Arlington.

Name: Brigitte, Acting Executive Director

Team: Magnet Dude

I’m running for YPT because …

I believe that what YPT students have to say matters. Plus, it’s a great excuse to buy sweet new running shoes.

I’m going to be honest. I don’t run. I’ve never run a city block – let alone an 8K. But I believe deeply in YPT, and I’ll do anything for our students – even it means running/walking/dragging myself over the finish line on October 14. I’ve even downloaded a running app for my phone and started thinking about my 8K playlist. That counts as training, right? I’m so excited to see the YPT community pull together this October to show YPT students that their voices matter, their stories are important and their dreams are achievable. It’s going to be an inspiring day, and I can’t wait to be part of it.

Are you already planning how to spend your share of the $2000 that Acumen Solutions will award to top race winners, or are you just excited to get outside and get some exercise with friends? Share your story with us, and follow us throughout the fall for training tips, inspirational stories and updates! Remember, the more people who race for us, the more money we raise to teach young people that their voices count! 

Thank you, as always, for your amazing support!  See you on October 14th!

For more information on the 2012 Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause8k and 1 Mile Fun Run, click here.

YPT’s Fall Semester: Reflecting on the Journey

Around this time two years ago, I was finishing my first semester as a freelance teaching artist, and my first semester with YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program.  I had spent the fall semester with a class of eighth graders at Swanson Middle School, teaching them about character and conflict, structure and stage directions, but mostly being awed over and over by their creativity, maturity and intelligence.  One particularly wonderful play, Love Math and Martians Don’t Mix by Cassidy Boomsma, went on to be produced in the 2010 New Play Festival, and then went out on the Express Tour the following season.  As I worked with Cassidy to dramaturge her play and watched her grow as a student and a playwright, I was amazed at how far she had come.

Now, as the new year begins, I am YPT’s Program Associate, and have just completed another semester at Swanson, in addition to overseeing our other in-school programming.  This fall, we reached more students than ever before, with 24 workshops in eight schools.  898 students, led by eight fearless teaching artists, dove headfirst into the art of playwriting.  Over the past few weeks, from the hundreds of plays produced by these students, YPT has narrowed the pool down to 26 finalists to be considered for the 2012 New Play Festival.  For the first time, we were aided in this selection by our Company, which was created just this year. This diverse collection of students, directors, teacher, actors and writers will continue to assist us as we choose the final ten to twelve plays that will be performed in this year’s festival. 

While I am now a full-time employee at YPT, with much more responsibility than I had two years ago, setting foot back in the first school where I taught our curriculum brought back for me many of the core reasons why I wanted to work here in the first place.  Because of our curriculum, which challenges our students, makes them think, makes them laugh, and takes them on a twelve week journey, at the end of which they have a finished play.  Because of wonderful classroom teachers like Karen Biggs-Leeds, who keeps her classes perfectly in line, while at the same time making obvious how much she cares for them.  But, most of all, because of the young playwrights: their ideas, their silliness, their perceptions of the world, their willingness to tackle something completely new and their determination to get it just right.  The joy and pride in bringing out of them an incredible story that they had all along, but never shared, or didn’t even realize was there.

And while the process for choosing the plays to feature in the New Play Festival is different, just like two years ago I find myself eagerly waiting to see which plays will be produced, wondering what the rest of the reading committee thinks about the plays that I nominated, and looking forward to working with a young playwright during the dramaturgy process.

As we enter the spring semester, we are preparing to serve four more schools, bringing us to all eight wards of the district this school year.  Five teaching artists are preparing to help bring to life the stories of an entirely new group of students.  And while YPT has undergone changes upon changes since the first class I taught, and so have I, returning to Swanson reminded me that the creativity of our students and the quality of their work, as well as our reasons for teaching them, remains the same.

Laurie
Program Associate

Meet the YPT Staff

YPT’s 2012 fiscal year began this month, and we could not be more excited to kick off another school year. We invite all of you to meet the FY12 staff and learn more about their roles with the company, and their dreams for the year!

David Snider, Producing Artistic Director and CEO

Time at YPT
: Six years.
Role in FY12: I’ll be guiding the organization’s long-term vision, growth and sustainability, and focusing on board development and company culture.
Dream for FY12: To tee up YPT for even greater growth moving forward, towards a $1M budget, in order to serve more students better and longer.
Personal FY12 Theme Song: Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Fleetwood Mac.


Brigitte Pribnow Moore, Deputy Director

Time at YPT:
Five years.
Role in FY12: In my new role as Deputy Director, I will be driving YPT’s fundraising and communications activities, and working with YPT’s senior staff and board on company culture, management and vision for the future. Exciting stuff.
Dream for FY12: This year, I want all of the members of our community – our students, parents, staff, artists, teachers, volunteers and supporters – to feel deeply valued and inspired. We are a company driven by amazing people, and we’ll be working hard to celebrate and honor all of you this year.
Personal FY12 Theme Song: What a Feeling by Irene Cara. That’s right. I went there.


Nicole Jost, Program Manager

Time at YPT: 
I first interned for YPT in 2006. I joined the staff in 2008.
Role in FY12: This year, I will continue to ensure that all of YPT’s programs provide an excellent experience for students. I will also lead our Young Playwrights’ Workshop student ensemble in the creation of a new original play, and grow YPT’s relationships with the communities we serve.
Dream for FY12: I hope to inspire students to pursue their dreams – whatever they may be!
Personal FY12 Theme Song: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor.


Laurie Ascoli, Program Associate

Time at YPT:
As a teaching artist, I’ve been with YPT since August 2009. I’ve been on staff since August 2010.
Role in FY12: I’m primarily dedicated to programming, so I deal with everything related to our in-school and after-school workshops. In addition to teaching my own classes, I help to create curriculum, hire other teaching artists, make sure that all of the classes are running smoothly, and prepare for performances of student work. I’m also going to be working on community engagement this year with our Student and Community Ambassadors programs and other outreach initiatives.
Dream for FY12: I hope that all of the programming work we do this year will make the students we serve feel that their thoughts and opinions matter, get them excited about writing, and help them view the arts as a safe space to be themselves and share their ideas.
Personal FY12 Theme Song: Stevie Wonder’s I Wish. It is literally impossible to hear that song and not instantly feel better about life.


Alison Beyrle, Development and Producing Associate

Time at YPT:
I have worked at YPT since August 2010.
Role in FY12:
On the development side, I’ll be writing and sending out a lot of grant proposals and researching new opportunities for YPT, in addition to maintaining our contact database and communicating with our funders and donors. On the producing side, I’m excited to take on new production duties such as scheduling, maintaining production storage and ensuring that we have everything we need for the amazing performances coming up in FY12!
Dream for FY12: I would like to help YPT grow in new ways, while keeping everything well-organized and efficient along the way.
Personal FY12 Theme Song: Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles.


Liza Harbison, Communications and Graphic Design Associate

Time at YPT:
One year.
Role in FY12: I will communicate YPT’s mission and dedication to our students through online and print communications.
Dream for FY12: My goal is to continue to learn and grow in communications and graphic design while getting to spend time with our awesome students and staff!
Personal FY12 Theme Song: In general the Fresh Prince theme song, but in relation to YPT I would say Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen.


Click here to learn more about the YPT staff. We can’t wait to celebrate the ideas and imaginations of YPT students with all of you in FY12!

The Fight for Equality: YPT Partners with SMYAL

On my way into work this morning, I listened to a call-in advice show on which a sixteen-year old girl from my home state asked for advice about a problem with her mom.  The girl had recently come out as gay, and her mother was threatening to stop paying for her private school, had forbidden her from coming out to anyone else, and had told her that her sexuality was “unnatural”.  The host of the show assured the caller that her mother would come to terms with the news and become more supportive, and even knowing how likely that is, the call still broke my heart.

The difficulties that openly gay youth face today have received much national attention over the last year or so, due in part to the seeming epidemic of suicides among gay teenagers in recent years.  While a number of amazing  projects  have dealt with the issue nationally, it is always refreshing to see local organizations responding as well.  The Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) is a DC nonprofit that has served lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth since long before it was trendy.

YPT was fortunate enough to work with SMYAL’s Youth Arts Ensemble this year to create an original play.  I had the honor of seeing this play when the students performed it at the Columbia Heights Community Center on June 23, 2011.

While SMYAL primarily deals with gay/gender rights, the students delved into a number of relevant issues.  Throughout a series of short vignettes, they examined matters of racial profiling, drug abuse and mental health, as well as homophobia, gay marriage and gender identity.  It was inspiring to see these talented students engaging in scenes that explored topics they clearly cared about wholly and passionately.  Even more wonderful was seeing the support they received from the community through both the amazing staff at SMYAL and the audience that had come to encourage them.  It is such a relief to know that any gay students in DC facing a reaction at home similar to the teenage girl I heard this morning have a place to go that not only accepts them, but also encourages them to share their stories with the world.

It is obvious that the fight for equality in America is far from over, but if the next generation is anything like the students I saw perform with SMYAL last month, I’d say we have a pretty impressive group leading the charge.

Be sure to check out another brave student performance when the students of YPT’s Young Playwrights’ Workshop present Out of the Shadow, their original play about bullying, at the Capital Fringe Festival next week.

Laurie
Program Associate

Laurie Ascoli: It Matters

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher told my mom that she feared I wasn’t able to distinguish fantasy from reality.  I don’t think I was ever at that point, but I do know that my imagination was completely out of control and didn’t know what to do with itself at school.  At home I could spend hours thinking up soap opera dramas for my Disney action figures to perform, but at school there were few outlets for my hyperactive imagination and so I had to create them for myself.  When we were asked to write ten sentences demonstrating the uses of vocabulary words, I strung them together to create a complete story.  When instructed to write an essay on why we shouldn’t do drugs, I wrote a play.  When other kids played soccer at recess, I sat in the grass and imagined that we were all toys belonging to a giant who controlled our every move.

In third grade, my school started offering an after-school activity program, and drama was one of the options.  I’d always loved acting in class plays, so I signed up.  The end product of the program was going to be a staged version of Rumplestiltskin, and the director decided to cast the lead female role by having us guess numbers between one and twenty.  I guessed the correct number (thirteen) and excitedly began prepping for the role.  When my big moment on stage came and I stood there histrionically wailing after Rumplestiltskin threatened to take my baby, listening to the audience’s laughter, I realized that my imagination now had a place to go.

As I continued performing throughout middle and high school, I felt a palpable sense of relief at having a safe place to go where my creativity was not only accepted, but encouraged and nurtured.  I went to a standard public high school, but we were one of the few fortunate schools to actually have theater classes available as part of our regular schedule as well as an after-school program.  Theater became a place to escape the cliques of girls in my class who only wanted to talk about nail polish and introduced me to other kids who loved and needed art just as much as I did.  While in elementary school theater expanded my already active imagination, in high school it taught me about commitment, responsibility and passion.  (You don’t give up hours to rehearsal every evening and weekend when you’re 16 unless you really, really love what you’re doing.)  More importantly, though, it taught me about myself.  While exploring different characters in a myriad of plays with a team of other students, I began to discover who I was and where I fit into the world.

Of the core group of theater students in my high school, nearly all of us have gone on to have careers in the arts.  We are theater artists, TV producers, filmmakers, stand up comics and musicians.  I can’t imagine that any of us would have found our passions as easily or held onto them as firmly had we not been exposed to the arts at such a crucial and formative age.

Since my graduation, theater classes at my high school have been cut back, but they still exist.  There is a new generation of students finding their voice through the arts and getting ready to declare themselves theater, music and humanities majors. It’s hard for me to imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t been introduced to theater when I was.  Would I have followed an entirely different career path?  Would my crazy imagination just have died out at some point?  I’m glad I never had to find out the answers to these questions, and hope that one day arts education will become so standard that no other students will, either.

Click here to learn more.

Laurie performs at the American College Theatre Festival.

Laurie Ascoli
YPT Program Assistant

Our Playwrights Fear Nothing (Not Even Peanut Butter): Reflections on the New Play Festival

Last week, on April 11-13, YPT presented the 2011 New Play Festival. It was an inspiring experience for YPT’s young playwrights, artists, staff and the hundreds of community members who came out to GALA Hispanic Theatre to celebrate with us (we had overflowing houses all three nights!).

As YPT’s Program Assistant and a New Play Festival dramaturge, I was particularly inspired to watch a play written by one of my students make its way from the page to the stage over the past few months.

When I sat down to read Flatworm’s Courageous Act for YPT’s 2011 New Play Festival reading committee in January, I immediately remembered the student who wrote it.

I taught Lauren White’s 4th grade class at Lafayette Elementary School in the spring of 2010 through YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program, and though I hadn’t seen her in more than 6 months, Lauren stuck in my mind as a student who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and was always eager to write. As I read her play again for the reading committee, I was  reminded of why I nominated it for the festival last year. Lauren’s imaginative and hilarious play about a flatworm-turned-superhero who must overcome his fear of peanut butter to save the girl of his dreams (she’s held captive by a Peanut Butter Monster, naturally) left me in awe of her intelligence and creativity. The play’s silliness keeps the laughs coming, but also reads as a staged coming-of-age graphic novel, drawing upon the style and themes of classic comic books.

When YPT decided to produce Flatworm’s Courageous Act in the 2011 New Play Festival, I was excited to learn that I would have the opportunity to help bring Lauren’s vision to life as its dramaturge. After our first meeting, the blend of smart writing and wackiness in the play made total sense: while Lauren took copious notes and had an immediate idea for every suggestion I made, she also demonstrated her “Billy Bob Thorton as an Australian” impression for me while we waited for her mom to pick her up. I also learned where the mature stylistic elements in Flatworm’s Courageous Act came from. Lauren showed me some of the impressive cartoons she has drawn, including one of Flatworm himself, and told me that her mom is a professional artist.

After hearing Lauren’s play read by professional actors at the first New Play Festival read-through on March 12, I grew even more impressed with her playwriting expertise. The characters, style, and tone of her play were so clearly written that the actors immediately picked up on it and created a world of flawed but brave superheroes, gruff villains and shrieking damsels in distress.

Following Lauren through this entire process – from her first workshop in the Lafayette Library to the performance of Flatworm’s Courageous Act which took place last week – has been an amazing experience. It embodies what we aim to do at YPT: foster talented young writers and guide them through the playwriting process from their first monologue to their final round of applause.

To read Lauren’s take on the process, click here.

To see photos from last week’s New Play Festival, click here.

Laurie Ascoli
Program Assistant

A Really Good Day

Creating, working and learning. All part of our daily lives, parts of who we are. Right now, I am working with YPT on a play I wrote, Flatworm’s Courageous Act, which will be produced by YPT and presented to the public at the
New Play Festival, on April 11, 2011, at GALA Hispanic Theatre. My experience with YPT has given me the opportunity to participate in and learn about the processes involved in producing and directing a play to get it from the paper to the stage. It started on a day that I thought couldn’t get any better. In the middle of a snowball fight, my mom gave me a call telling me that my play that I wrote last year was going to be produced and that I was going to help!  It was actually really funny for my friends because I kept jumping up and down and they didn’t know why. After that, my awesome dramaturge named Laurie helped me with thinking of ways to make my play a lot better. Then, on Saturday, February 12, we had a kickoff party with outrageously good cookies where I got to meet some of the other playwrights and learn about their plays. Last, I typed out the final draft of my play for the actors to use at the read-through that I’ll be going to soon. This has been a great experience and I can’t wait to see all of the plays onstage!

Lauren White
YPT Young Playwright
Lafayette Elementary School