YPT’s 20th Anniversary Season: A Look Back

20Fest logo FINAL

That’s a wrap!

YPT’s 20th anniversary performance season is in the books, and it was one for…well, the books.

In the last seven months, YPT has held six unique performances, featuring a grand total of 41 student-written plays. Over 100 professional theater artists participated in YPT’s productions this year, including actors and directors from ten different DC-area theater companies. Nearly 1,000 people attended our free productions, and were inspired to donate upwards of $2,000: enough to fund one more classroom in our 20 Classroom Challenge!

In honor of a record-breaking year of student-written theater, we wanted to remember some of the highlights from a season we’ll never forget!


20Fest Flier FINAL FINALYPT’s 20th Anniversary Festival
Friday, December 12, 2014
7pm
Theater J

YPT’s 20th anniversary season began with a celebration of our rich history: the 20th Anniversary Festival! Featuring twenty of the best plays written in YPT’s first twenty years, 20Fest brought together ten local companies to remount the student pieces in their own signature styles.

From Rorschach Theatre’s reimagining of Ally in Blunderland to Faction of Fools’ commedia dell’arte take on Magnet Dude, 20Fest honored twenty years of young playwrights with transcendent interpretations and performances of their work. Thank you to all who took part in 20Fest – it was such a joy to see the DC theater community rally around young voices!

For photos from 20Fest, click here.
For video of the performance, click here.
To buy Write to Dream, the book containing all the 20Fest plays, click here!

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Silence is Violence flier FINALSilence Is Violence: A #BlackLivesMatter Event
Tuesday, January 29, 2015
7pm
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop

At the dawn of 2015, the #BlackLivesMatter movement had grown into a nationwide outcry against racial injustice and police brutality. Seeing that DC’s young people had little chance to share their own reflections on the movement, YPT did something we’ve never done before: we held a pop-up event.

Conceived and organized in under two weeks, Silence Is Violence: A #BlackLivesMatter Event was an open mic-style forum for artistic and community expression. Before a packed house at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, eleven adult and four youth artists performed works of poetry and prose, including a group reading of response pieces written by sixth graders at Eliot-Hine Middle School.

The event culminated in a space for community artistic response, including a group mural and an #IHaveADream ribbon activity led by activist Omolara Williams McCallister. It was incredible to see so many people empowered to speak their minds!

For photos from Silence Is Violence, click here!
To read the student pieces from the event, visit our blog, Silence Is Violence DC.

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Photo by ShelbyWorks

NWN nofilter flier v2New Writers Now! #nofilter
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
7pm
Anacostia Playhouse

Just two weeks after Silence Is Violence came New Writers Now! #nofilter, YPT’s first professional staged reading of 2015.

In honor of Black History Month, #nofilter featured four powerful plays written by black female students in our In-School Playwriting Program. Presented by YPT in partnership with Wild Women Theatre, the performance captivated the capacity crowd with tales of murder and mystery, love and kinship, teen homelessness and much more.

Through this celebration of young black voices, we were honored to continue the conversation around the #BlackLivesMatter movement. After the show, audience members were invited to contribute their own experiences to the community mural begun at Silence Is Violence.

For photos from #nofilter, click here!
For complete video of the performance, click here.

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2015 NPF Postcard FRONT FINALThe 2015 New Play Festival
April 20-22, 2015
7pm
GALA Hispanic Theatre

After #nofilter came our biggest performance event of the season: the 2015 New Play Festival!

This year’s Festival spanned three nights, featuring fifteen brand-new works written by YPT students. The plays brought to life tales of samurai warriors and dreadlock-nappers; brothers and sisters and fathers and sons; poets, playwrights and, of course, vengeful bacon strips.

The 2015 New Play Festival drew over 400 people to GALA Hispanic Theatre and raised over $1,800, making it among the most successful New Play Festivals in YPT history!

For photos from the 2015 New Play Festival, click here!
Videos from the Festival are not yet online, but you can watch the promotional “showdown” videos here!

To buy the 2015 New Play Festival book, featuring all 32 Featured and Finalist plays, click here!

NPF 2015 Group B-215


Stage Fright flier FINALThe Student Advisory Council Presents: Stage Fright
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
7pm
Busboys and Poets

The close of the New Play Festival marked the end of YPT’s professional performance season, but our students were not done sharing their work!

The Student Advisory Council, a group of YPT alumni who advise our staff and create new work together, followed up last year’s Dear Mr. Stein with a new original play, Stage Fright. Through a series of vignettes and monologues—some funny, some poignant—Stage Fright addressed our everyday fears and not-so-everyday phobias.

The play culminated in a Choose Your Own Adventure piece that brought the audience into the performance, and raised over $200 for YPT in the process!

For photos from Stage Fright, click here!
For the full video of the show, click here!

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YPW Presents 2015 flier FINALThe Young Playwrights’ Workshop Presents: The Art of Understanding
Monday, June 15
7pm
Source

YPT’s 2014-15 performance season concluded with The Art of Understanding, an original play written and performed by the teen artists of our award-winning Young Playwrights’ Workshop!

Weaving together dramatic vignettes and personal poems, The Art of Understanding addressed the subject of mental health through a variety of genres and perspectives. From love stories to tales of escape, the play explored the experience of people with eating disorders, multiple personality disorder, depression and much more.

Presented by CulturalDC as part of the 2015 Source Festival, The Art of Understanding wowed the crowd and sparked a valuable dialogue about mental illness, representation and the creative process. The night ended with a dessert reception celebrating an incredible season and paying homage to those Young Playwrights’ Workshop members moving on to college and more!

For photos from The Art of Understanding, click here!
For an interview with three graduating Workshop seniors, click here!

YPW 2015 Performance-213


Thank you for supporting YPT’s 20th anniversary performance season! We’ll see you in the fall!

Kicking Off YPT’s Sixteenth Season

This past week, on a wet, chilly Monday, YPT welcomed our supporters, students, teachers and community members out of the cold and into GALA Hispanic Theatre for the kick-off of our SIXTEENTH season with New Writers Now!The Fight for Family, featuring three inspiring new student plays exploring issues and relationships within families (check out the event photos on Facebook here).  After a celebratory pre-reception featuring some amazing French mini-desserts (sampling each one was a necessity), the audience was invited into three very different families – a large, close-knit Latino family struggling with a cycle of infidelity, a son who decides to join the military against his parents’ wishes and a young girl working multiple jobs and struggling to raise her sick little brother, while trying to keep up a positive attitude.  The plays were all different, but all tied perfectly into our overarching question for the night: “What would you do for your family?”

During the post-show talkback, the playwrights were asked about the inspiration for their plays. Jessy Deleon said that he wanted to show the impact that infidelity can have on a family from the kid’s perspective; astutely noting that often books, movies and TV shows don’t focus on how infidelity affects other members of the family.  Reyna Rios said that she wanted to write a play that would make people feel uplifted after seeing it; and her play did have an almost fairy tale-like ending, where the kind and hard-working young woman who befriends an elderly woman is left enough money to pay for her brother’s medical expenses, while the spoiled and rude granddaughter is left with nothing.

I was incredibly impressed, as always, by our young playwrights. I especially admire how they took the original assignment – to write a play about anything – and chose to tackle issues that hit close to home for many people, in hopes of inspiring reflection and perhaps even change among their audiences.

I was also viewing this performance from a different light: this past summer, the YPT staff participated in a playwriting challenge where we wrote our own plays and had some of our amazing actors perform them.  It was HARD.  Even as someone who enjoys writing and has taken playwriting courses in the past, the prospect of writing a completely original play and having it read in front of others was daunting and at times incredibly stressful. The experience really hit home how brave our student playwrights are, and watching the plays on Monday night, with our staff activity fresh in my mind, I was filled with admiration. Not only did these playwrights write touching original plays and were courageous enough to share them with an entire audience (including some total strangers), they also each tackled difficult issues in hopes of really impacting their audience.

If Monday night’s performance was any indication, we have a fantastic season ahead of us! Our next performance will be the Express Tour Showcase on Monday, November 14th, at GALA Hispanic Theatre, with the possibility of an even more exciting dessert selection – although it’s going to be hard to top the mini pastries.  Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Alison
Development and Producing Associate

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!

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

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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
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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

Oppression. Rebellion. Unrest. Family. Devotion. Equality. Progress.

These are just some of the issues explored  by 12th grader Ellen Hubbard in her play Mercy Mercy Me, which will be featured in next month’s New Writers Now! – From Civil War to Civil Rights.

Mercy Mercy Me focuses on one African American family living in mid-sixties Chicago, at the peak of the Civil Rights movement. Parents Charlotte and James struggle to make ends meet, focusing on their family despite the injustices they face every day. Neither they nor their children, however, can ignore these injustices for long.

Ellen, who was in 11th grade at Bell Multicultural High School when she wrote the play, is passionate about the Civil Rights period.  “Everything from that movement inspired me because if all those people could get through that, you could get through anything,” she says.  “And they kept their sense of humor through it all. That’s important.”

While her poignant portrayal of one family’s search for equality takes place more than four decades ago, Ellen knows it will still strike a chord with today’s audience.  “There are still a lot of movements going on,” she points out. “Animal rights, the women’s movement…There are still a lot of people struggling to get their rights recognized.”

In addition to identifying with the themes she examines, Ellen also hopes that her audience will find inspiration in James and Charlotte’s story.  “I hope people will be inspired to do whatever they want to in spite of the obstacles in their way, as far as money or whatever else.  And be thankful for what they have,” she says.  “I hope the audience can relate to it – and still have a couple of laughs!”

New Writers Now! – From Civil War to Civil Rights will be performed on February 7, at 7pm, at GALA Hispanic Theatre (3333 14th St. NW).  Admission is free.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Laurie
Program Assistant

The YPT Express Tour: Stories from the Road

This November and December, YPT’s professional performance company toured more than sixty elementary schools, nursing homes, community centers, theaters, and hospitals with YPT’s annual Express Tour, presenting three vibrant new plays written by young playwrights and community members. Over 6,000 community members had the opportunity to explore issues of homelessness in The Good Neighbor, see how a community of magical birds can teach us something new about our own humanity in The Bird of One Thousand Colors and relish the power of friendship in Love, Math and Martians Don’t Mix.

Now that the Express Tour bus has returned home to YPT, Tour company members share thoughts and stories from the road.

Erin Baxter, Stage Manager
The YPT Express Tour. It’s hard to say what I will miss most after this incredible experience!  As the stage manager, I had the opportunity to watch our actors perform in over sixty venues, and each one was unique in its own way.

My favorite part about live theater and this tour is the element of surprise. You’re never quite sure what will happen in theater and it leaves the door open for a variety of opportunities and wonderful moments. We had plenty of surprises on this tour. From the bus not starting, to working in extremely small venues, actors getting sick, or students / residents asking challenging questions, there was always something new. The wonderful part is that we always managed to make the show happen. We might leave half our set out of a performance, replace a sick actor with a person “on book” (with the script in their hand), or improvise wonderful stories during our workshops with the residents. No matter what the challenge, we were always able to make real and moving theater and to stay true to the work we were presenting. Seeing how theater touches people, and, better yet, involves audiences in discussions about real issues, is one of the most rewarding experiences I could ever have in my job.

Wendy Nogales, Actor
We had six shows over two days at one school because it was a huge school and there were a ton of students who were going to get the opportunity to see the show. The class periods were just too short to perform all three, so we ended up performing an extended talkback for The Good Neighbor. It was cool having a real dialogue with the students about homelessness.  Usually we don’t have time to talk for more then a couple of minutes, and we can’t get to that many questions or comments. The extended talkback offered the opportunity to really hear lots of different points of view. We always ran out of time with tons of students still wanting to share. It was a special two days.

My favorite non-performance Express Tour moment happened on the last day, at the last venue. The back-story is that last year we had come across a few therapy dogs while doing shows at nursing homes. So this year someone PROMISED that we would see at least one cute dog. And for seven weeks and six days we saw not one. On a weekly basis, the promise would be questioned and reaffirmed. On the last day of the Tour, it was again promised that we would see a puppy. Well, we walked into our final venue, and in the first room after the lobby was the MOST ADORABLE puppy you have ever seen – a seven-week-old ball of white fur that fit into the palm of your hand. It was pretty surreal.

Alex Vernon, Actor
My favorite thing about the 2010 Express Tour was how well everyone got along and worked together. A 7am call is never a fun experience, but everyone was friendly and helpful, even that early in the morning. There was a great deal of camaraderie, which translated into being able to instantly jump into any classroom or nursing home and feel comfortable enough to start making connections with the audience.

Also, IHOP has this stuffed French toast that I always wanted to get while on tour, but I never did after a bad experience with stuffed French toast in Tennessee. Dawn, a fellow company actor, tried to convince me that it was good and that I should give it another shot, but I was pretty skeptical. I mean, what if it has that gross cream cheese filling instead of that good sweet cream cheese filling? I often just settled for the Viva La French Toast, which they don’t put on the menu in as prominent a place as they used to, but is still available. I reckon some people measure their lives in regrets. But I hope we’re capable of change.

Daniel Mori, Assistant Stage Manger, Actor, Puppeteer
I just met a random student at Starbucks who recognized me from the YPT Express Tour, and we had a lovely conversation about the show and the response of the other kids at her school.  She really appreciated that our plays had meaning and a message, and especially that we focused on bullying and outer appearances vs. inner beauty. She shared how her family moved to the U.S. a year ago, and her first year in school she was bullied and alienated just because she was different. I was able to pull up the YPT website (Yay, smart phone!) and tell her about YPT student Mariana Pavon Sanchez, and how she had written a play with YPT about her experience coming to the U.S., and how she then had the opportunity this past October to accept the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award with YPT at the White House. By the end of our conversation, this girl had already pulled out a notebook and pen so she could start writing her own play for us to perform! **Insert warm, fuzzy feelings here.**

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YPT’s next tour, a two-week travelling performance of Woodlawn, a new play about DC’s historic Woodlawn Cemetery, kicks off this February. We can’t wait to get back on the road!

Be sure to check out the February 7th premiere of Woodlawn during the upcoming New Writers Now! at GALA Hispanic Theatre.

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

A Moving, Moon-filled Evening – YPT’s Fifteenth Birthday Season Opens!

Jenny Wrenn Models the Costume Worn by the Character Blockman at New Writers Now!

On October 4, I had the pleasure of attending YPT’s first New Writers Now! event of the season at GALA Hispanic Theatre in Columbia Heights. The theme of the evening was “Outside In”, and the three terrific plays that were performed posed the thought-provoking question, “How can we learn about ourselves from those who stand apart?” The playwrights’ inspiring, creative work brought both laughter and tears to the entire audience, as always, and as a member of YPT’s Board of Directors, it was particularly gratifying to me to see some of our fantastic community partners in the audience, along with the friends and families of the playwrights!

One piece which I found particularly moving was the beautiful play Moon Man, by Abby Melick. The piece tells the story of a young man who, after living alone as an orphan on the moon for years after losing his parents in a spaceship crash, finds himself on Earth again. The adjustment isn’t easy, and he has a difficult time reciprocating the small kindnesses he receives from the young girl who finds and tries to befriend him. At one point, the Moon Man, unable to take the pressures and frustrations of his isolating situation, contemplates ending his life.

As the Moon Man stood there, talking about why he felt this was the only way out for him, my mind couldn’t help but immediately think on those tragic young losses that a number of communities have had to cope with recently. When the young girl reached out a hand to help him and bring him away from the train tracks, tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about just how many helping hands are needed these days –  hands that are willing to reach out and comfort kids who might be struggling through their own tough and challenging times. It was a moment on stage that reminded me what great theatre can be: challenging, thought-provoking, and deeply, profoundly moving.

After the performance, we were invited as a group to write brief letters to specific characters from the plays we had seen and to share them with the playwrights and the rest of the audience. I felt compelled to write mine to the Moon Man (who, as it turned out, also shared my love for the works of Shakespeare – what a kindred spirit!) Here’s a little excerpt of what I wrote:

“I am SO incredibly glad you decided to stay with us. Keep shining on, Moon Man.”

And so I say this too to every young person out there who might be doubting themselves right now:  Your voice counts. We are listening. And we continue to need your amazing stories to remind us of those small kindnesses – those small moments of salvation – that make us all human.

Jenny Wrenn
Vice Chair, YPT Board of Directors