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.



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!



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!



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.



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!



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!



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!



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.



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.


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.


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

Young Playwright Mariana Pavón Sánchez Speaks at National Award Ceremony with Michelle Obama

On October 20, 2010, YPT received a very special fifteenth birthday present. We won the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the highest honor in the nation for a program like ours. YPT Producing Artistic Director and CEO David Snider, and YPT playwright Mariana Pavón Sánchez spent the afternoon at the White House participating in a private ceremony presented by First Lady Michelle Obama.

YPT was one of only 15 winners selected for this honor, from a national pool of more than 400 nominations. Mariana  was the only youth participant chosen to speak at the award ceremony.

You can watch the entire award ceremony (including Mariana’s speech) here, and you can read Mariana’s speech below:

“Hello, my name is Mariana Pavón Sánchez, and I am an 11th grade student with Young Playwrights’ Theater, or YPT. Just over a year ago I began studying with YPT, as part of my English as a second language class. YPT helped me know that I can express myself through writing – and that what I have to say matters. I wasn’t sure I could do it at first, but then I realized I could write a play about my own life, so I wrote a play called Mariana’s Wish, about my mother and how much I miss her. The YPT teaching artists helped me find my inspiration, shape my ideas on the page and revise my play until it was exactly what I wanted to say.

I was so excited when my play was chosen to be produced in YPT’s citywide New Play Festival. Seeing my play performed by professional actors was an amazing experience – but seeing and hearing the audience’s reaction to my story was even better. They laughed and cried – and I realized the power of my words. My advice to other students: don’t be afraid to express yourself through writing, even if it is something small. It’s important.

I was a very shy student, afraid to speak out. And here I am addressing the First Lady of the United States – and it’s all thanks to Young Playwrights’ Theater, to the arts and the humanities and to the power of my own ideas.

Now I would like to read you the beginning of my play, Mariana’s Wish. It is about my missing my mother in another country, and my father who won’t let me go to see her. I start the play from my point of view, angry because I don’t understand why he won’t let me go. But then I also wrote from his point of view –he is just worried about me. At the end of play we understand each other, and he lets me go. This is the beginning:

‘I came to this country last year. First I wanted to come to learn English. Mi Mami didn’t come with me because her visa expired in 2007, and she and my grandfather are both sick, so she can’t travel. Now I want to go back to Nicaragua to visit, because I miss mi Mami. I miss talking to her every night. I want to taste her vaho that she cooks really well. We used to go outside to El Mirador de Catarina, where we spent hours walking and talking. We talked about boys. She also gave me advice about how I have to act with them. Another thing that I miss is when we talked about what I want to do for my future. I want to do those things with mi Mami again. I want to spend Christmas with mi Mami, mi hermano, mi familia and mis amigos; they are the most important people in my life. I’ve asked my Dad three times before if I can go to Nicaragua but he doesn’t really take me seriously. So this morning before he leaves for work, I’ll talk to him and he’ll have to listen to me.’

Thank you so much!”

You can read more about YPT’s National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award here.

Mariana Pavón Sánchez
Young Playwright