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.

What We Value: The Young Playwrights’ Workshop

I started working with the after-school Young Playwrights’ Workshop last spring. Our students inspired me. (It was not surprising – our students inspire me constantly.) Here was a group of people that were so supportive of one another, so courageous with their art form, so happy to share their thoughts and dreams. Basically, they were a functioning ensemble. It worked.

I wanted to understand how it worked. I’m sure everyone has, at some point in their lives, tried to work together with nine or ten other people and failed. So what was the Workshop doing differently? What was their secret?

I asked them, and here’s what they said:

“We may not all have the same opinions on certain subjects, but the key ingredient that holds us together is respect.”

“We agree on not making fun of people.”

“I love hearing a different approach to the same topic! It’s so wonderful to see something in someone else’s point of view.”

I continued to mull over these responses during the summer. The students were right on about their success. But could it be replicated? I was scared and excited to take over leading the Workshop in the fall. What if this dynamic had been a fluke? What if we couldn’t make it work without the seniors who had gone on to college? What if, what if, what if.

What was needed was a way to inspire the new Workshop the same way last year’s students inspired me. We needed to name what was important, and to agree on what we were working towards. As excited as everyone was about the product (the performance in June), it was just as important to have a rewarding process. How did the Workshop want to get where it was going?

Again, all I had to do was ask. I borrowed from Michael Rohd’s excellent book Theatre for Community, Conflict and Dialogue, leading the new and returning students in a values clarification exercise. I read various statements and asked the students to move to a different spot in the room, depending on whether they agreed, disagreed, or were unsure. I found out where there was consensus and where there was discord. For example, I read: “I am here to make friends.” There were different opinions in the group. Some students disagreed, saying that they preferred to focus on achieving the goal of performance. Others spoke to their experience in the workforce, saying that you don’t have to be best friends with someone to get a job done. On the other hand, some students expressed that friendships can help with collaboration – when you know someone well you can communicate easily. The point of the exercise is not to debate each statement, just to understand the different points of view that are present in the room. (In that way the exercise fit in with the reflections of last year’s ensemble.)

I also asked students to write towards this question of values individually. I ended up with a wealth of raw material to draw from, and only needed to give it shape. The ensemble unanimously approved these values on October 19. These are the values that the Workshop will strive to live out this year:

  • Respect: We are a team. We treat every member of the team with respect, and we embrace each other’s differences. It is never okay to make fun of someone’s idea.
  • Collaboration: We work together by making a thread. We each add a little piece of fiber and in the end we get this rope. We are all linked together by this passion that brings us understanding and abundant knowledge about each other and our world.
  • Freedom of Expression: We want this program to be a place where a person can freely express their opinions. All ideas are important. All ideas are considered.
  • Evolution: We are here to grow as writers and actors.
  • Commitment: We depend on each other as a team. We each take pride in our own work and the work of the whole group. We always try our best.
  • Impact: We want people to be inspired by our work. We will create theater that is relevant to our community, and will make people think.
  • Fun: This is not school, and it shouldn’t feel like school. We are here to have fun!

The values are posted on the walls of the studio for everyone to see. I asked the students to sign contracts, agreeing to uphold these values, and to hold each other to them as well. And that includes me! I hope that if I become boring, someone will just raise their hand and point to “Fun.” That’ll teach me.

If you want to join the Workshop, click here. We’d love to have you.

Nicole
Program Manager

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!

A Superhero Play by a Superhero Student

Dakota Wenberg is not sure what she wants to be when she grows up. She’s thinking she’ll either be a playwright or an astronaut (or maybe both), but she knows she still has a few years to decide.

Dakota is an eighth grade student at Swanson Middle School, and one of the fifteen talented young writers who will be featured in YPT’s 2011 New Play Festival.

I was thrilled when YPT’s Program Manager Nicole Jost invited me to serve as Dakota’s dramaturge and help her revise and develop her play for production. I remembered reading Dakota’s play, A Jewel of a Date, when I participated in YPT’s New Play Festival Reading Committee in January. Each Reading Committee member was responsible for reading and commenting on dozens of student-written plays from YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program, but Dakota’s play stood out for me. I was so impressed by her imaginative characters and her quick, witty dialogue. I remember sitting in my kitchen laughing, reading Dakota’s opening monologue out loud to my husband, and telling him, “YPT has to produce this play.”

A Jewel of a Date is an unconventional superhero story. The play’s protagonist is Superman’s daughter, Supergirl (also known as Liz). Throughout the play, Liz struggles to balance her life as a teenage girl navigating the new and uncertain territories of dating and high school, with her life as a tough, crime-fighting superhero. As Liz says in her opening monologue, “Girl stuff is hard, superhero stuff is super. So girl superhero stuff is SUPER HARD.” The play is often hilarious, sometimes poignant and always thoroughly entertaining.

I loved working with Dakota to develop her story. Dakota is a busy student. Last month, she was the stage manager for her school’s production of Beauty and Beast. She has swim practice every Tuesday. She sings in an after-school chorus at school and a youth choir at her church. But she still managed to come to each of our dramaturgy meetings completely prepared (with a laptop, multiple copies of her play and all of her YPT paperwork completed and signed) and excited to engage in an enthusiastic, focused dialogue about her play.

Dakota turned in the final draft of her play last week. Over the next month, she will have several opportunities to sit in on New Play Festival rehearsals and give the director and actors feedback as they bring her words to life. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks.

Brigitte
Development Director

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

Something to SMYAL About

Back in October, YPT initiated a partnership with another organization that serves our city’s youth: Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL).

Partnering with SMYAL has been a dream of mine for a couple years now. As a queer woman, I can’t help wondering about LGBT youth within the walls of every school I step into. In light of the recent tragic suicides within this national community, the need to hear these students’ voices is even more urgent.

SMYAL is located in a cozy blue row house on Capitol Hill. I noticed immediately that the youth who walked through SMYAL’s door felt at home. They readily prepared Hot Pockets in the kitchen, flopped on the couches, and gave friendly greetings to staff and youth alike. This is a community, built on mutual respect and trust.

My role is to work within SMYAL’s Youth Arts Program, ably lead by Stephanie Remick, Youth Leadership Coordinator. I will continue working with this group all year.

I told the youth when I first met them that at YPT we believe every person has a story worth telling. I want to give them the opportunity to tell theirs. With such a close-knit bunch, I knew that I would have to earn everyone’s trust.

During one workshop I led the youth in a story sharing exercise. We split into partnerships, and I instructed them to tell their partners the story of a time when they felt proud of themselves. My partner was clearly still trying to figure me out. She shared a proud moment, but without detail, just a bold declaration, leaving me to fill in the blanks.

When it came time to share I told the students that instead of sharing their own stories they would share what their partner told them. On top of that, they would share their partner’s story in the first person and attempt to imitate his/her gestures, tone of voice, etc.

I took the floor. I shifted my weight and assumed a standoffish pose. I did my best impersonation of my partner’s voice, and tried to match her boldness.

“I graduated high school. Until you graduate high school, you’re still a child.”

She cracked up. Her body language softened, and she congratulated me on my performance. It was a small moment, but I knew that I had expanded her perception of me. Perhaps I could be trusted.

Currently we’re working on the creation of a short performance to mark the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)’s “No Name-Calling Week.” I’m excited to hear the youth’s contributions to this much-discussed topic. It promises to be eye opening.

Nicole
Program Manager

My Answer to the Question: whYPT?

My relationship with YPT began eight years ago, when I was in high school. It was a very weird time in my life. I wasn’t investing in my education, I was just trying to get by. I put way more work into the play I wrote for YPT than I did into Chemistry and Math.

I’ve spoken before about how powerful it was for me when YPT produced my play. I watched as professional actors, people who are trained to use words, actually said my words. It was a huge boost of confidence. I often think back to that moment when I’m in the classroom. I get to say to my students, “I was where you are. If I can do it, so can you.”

I went to college in Santa Cruz, California. When I left DC I didn’t think I was coming back. I was going to paradise and I was going to become happy and mellow. Instead, I developed this yearning to return here. I really wanted to change things. I saw such injustice: it’s poetic in a sick way, the poverty that exists in our nation’s capital. YPT became that thing that I was going to contribute – I could come back home and make a difference in the lives of students.

When I think back to my first interview with David and Patrick, who had just started as Producing Artistic Director and Program Manager, it’s pretty embarrassing. I was very naïve and I may have actually said that I wanted to “change the world.” I was so earnest, but I think it worked for me because at that time David and Patrick were just starting their journey with YPT. Being over-eager simply made me a good fit for the new leadership.

I’ve worked closely with David and Patrick since that first interview, and this year I took on the title of Program Manager – Patrick’s role when I met him. Patrick has been a mentor to me, and YPT has been a place where I’ve honed my skills as an arts educator. I’m so grateful for this.

I’m sure you can guess that being Program Manager is not always a breeze. I love to brag about how creative our students are, and what amazing writers they are, which is very true. What I don’t always love to talk about are the struggles that we as teaching artists confront in the classroom. I’ve worked with groups of students that were challenging for any number of reasons: students who were struggling to learn English, students who were coping with serious problems in their personal lives, and sometimes simply a group with tough social dynamics. These experiences are always rewarding in the end. These are the students that force you to fight for what you want – something we tell them makes a good character.

I said to my students just the other day, “You may not care about this, but that’s tough. You’re going to do it. Because I care too much about you to let you give up.” I’ve found that when you invest in students in that way they never disappoint you.

Nicole
Program Manager