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!

YPTimeMachine: Week Two

As YPT launches our 15th birthday celebration, we’re spending a lot of time reflecting on 1995 – both what was popular at the time (snap bracelets and pog collections, anyone?)  and where we were in our own lives.  Some staff members were embarking on new chapters in their adult lives, while others were still navigating their way through elementary school.  But reading all our 1995 staff bios, I noticed a common thread – an interest in the creative arts, and a drive to succeed in the things we were passionate about.  Raina, our Community Engagement Associate, performed plays for her family and friends and read under her desk in class.  Laurie, our Program Assistant, had a play she wrote produced at a school assembly.  Brigitte, our Development Director, turned in an unassigned book report on Les Misérables in middle school.  Patrick, our Associate Artistic Director, looked forward to a college because it offered new opportunities for theater, and David, our Producing Artistic Director and CEO, was a working actor in New York City – not an easy job!

While I wasn’t lucky enough to have a program as cool as YPT come into my classroom, I was an avid writer in 1995, filling up notebooks with stories inspired by my favorite books at the time.  In second grade, we did have a class called “Writer’s Workshop” where we were instructed to write whatever we wanted, and I looked forward to it every week.  It was during these Writer’s Workshops that I produced the only story with chapters in my class, and learned how to use quotation marks for dialogue.  I was also spellbound by all the school plays (I have memories of Janney Elementary’s production of Oliver! as a theatrical masterpiece) and, inspired, I would put on plays at home, often playing multiple roles.  As I got older the idea of being on stage became less appealing, but I kept writing and remained fascinated with theater, which led me to major in theater in college and, many internships later, land a job with YPT.  I, like so many of us in the arts world, discovered a passion for the arts at an early age, and without exposure to creative opportunities and encouragement from teachers and parents, I probably would not have pursued working in the arts, which has led to some amazing experiences and a job I feel lucky to have.

As part of our look back, we found a huge box of YPT material circa 1995-1997.  Some of the plays are hilariously mid-90s, including a play submitted for consideration for 1996 Express Tour in which Madonna discovers that Dennis Rodman is really a woman, and a play in which Tia and Tamera (presumably from the 90s classic Sister, Sister) go to a party at Puff Daddy’s house.  But many plays have themes that we still see today in student work.  Plays from early Express Tour performances dealt with issues such as forbidden love, violence in the community, AIDS and, on the lighter side, a kid who puts a love note to his secret crush in the wrong locker.  Today, that character would probably text his declaration of love (in 160 characters or less) to the wrong cell phone, but the ideas and the quality of the work has remained the same.  We’ve seen high-waist jeans come and go, we’ve seen the rise and fall of boy bands, we’ve been through several presidents, but the talents of young students and the importance of arts education opportunities remain as important now as they were in 1995.

So come check out our Express Tour Showcase November 3-6!  Maybe in 2025 we’ll be laughing at the dated references as we show up to YPT’s 30th birthday celebration in our flying cars, but right now, it promises to be a great show.   And we’ll have birthday cake.  See you there!

Alison
Development Assistant

David’s Lunch with Michelle Rhee

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with Michelle Rhee. It was a rare opportunity – 60 minutes of one-on-one conversation with the Chancellor of DC Public Schools, one of the most famous and controversial figures in education today – and a long-term advocate for YPT. My hope was to share with her the latest developments at YPT and to hear her vision for the next steps in the school system. I wasn’t disappointed. I was immediately impressed by her candor, her humor and the clear inspiration she derives from DC students. I shared with her the clear data from our latest, innovative evaluations of student growth in our programs, showing how much students’ critical and creative thinking develop through our process. You can see these results for high school and elementary school on our website. She was impressed – and reiterated that she wished more nonprofits had this kind of data to back up their programs. We discussed how YPT has worked for years with people like Dr. Barry Oreck to develop evaluations that allow us to capture lightning in a bottle – and truly see the impact of our work on student learning.

We talked about the planned arts magnet middle school, and had an in-depth discussion about how the arts community could play a bigger role in helping the school system become the national model we all want it to be. As I said to the DC School Board three years ago when testifying on behalf of the Arts Standards we at YPT helped to write, I believe the school system doesn’t need to spend millions of dollars reinventing the wheel in creating arts programs. Instead, we should find ways to streamline communications between nonprofits and DCPS and pursue funding streams to support the amazing artists and organizations already working with DC Public School students, as we expand and fully integrate our services. With our theatre community now only second to New York City in the nation, Young Playwrights’ Theater and the rest of the community are ready to provide all DC students with high quality arts education experiences. With a true partnership between nonprofits and schools, we could bring professional artists into every classroom and quickly establish a national model for arts integration throughout DCPS – if only the system and our nonprofit community could work more directly, and more clearly, together, as I told the Chancellor.

I also brought up the question of how we as a community can go beyond test scores to gauge and better serve students’ development. We talked about engaging parents more in their students’ education and how the system can better serve parents, families and communities overall. I pledged my interest and support for her efforts in developing a stronger arts education model throughout DC Public Schools and she pledged her continued support of YPT. By the end of the hour we knew each other better, she knew YPT better – and we left the lunch excited to find new ways YPT and DCPS can collaborate. When you come to our upcoming performances or programs, don’t be surprised if you see her there, cheering our students on. Ultimately we both want the same thing – to ensure that DC students receive the world-class education they so richly deserve. Isn’t that really the goal?

David
Producing Artistic Director and CEO

Beautifying Plummer Elementary School

This past Saturday was DCPS Beautification Day and a team of us from YPT (I, our Program Manager, our board chair and vice-chair, one of our actors and one of our teaching artists) descended on Plummer Elementary School in Ward 7, at 8:00am, to help out. We didn’t know what to expect and hoped we’d be useful.

Boy, were we useful. It ended up being a really fun and full day. When we arrived we were met by Andrea from Kaplan, a company supplying classrooms with all kinds of materials, from bookshelves to dramatic play puppets. There was entire truck to be unloaded and brought into four different classrooms (after the furniture in each had been rearranged). We divided and conquered, with three of us helping to unload while the rest unpacked and sorted the classrooms with the help of a few teachers.

The supplies were amazing and abundant – and so much of it (play sand, doll houses, toy trains, art supplies) made all of us want to run right back to pre-K and play again. It felt great to be directly helping the teachers and students get ready for the opening of school – and to have an activity that brought our staff, teaching artists, actors and board members together to serve the community in a different way and get to know each other better.

After a few hours we had the classrooms ready for the teachers to finish setting up – with less than 48 hours until students arrive. Then we moved on to beautifying the outside – we weeded, planted flowers and mulched the entire front of Plummer, hopefully brightening students’ nervous first few days of school and helping them to see how much we all care. We grabbed t-shirts (provided by Target, apparently) and took some photos you can see here. By two o’clock we were done, thanked profusely by Principal Gray and his staff at Plummer and bidding farewell until we start our In-School Playwriting Program again with the 5th graders in a few weeks.

We’d all been dreaming of lunch for a few hours, so we ran down to Denny’s on Benning Road (one of the only sit down restaurants in my neighborhood of Ward 7) and dared each other to order the Grand Slam. We laughed and talked a lot over lunch and reflected on how much the teachers and school still had to accomplish to get ready for Monday’s opening. And also how great it is that DC students will start this year with so many great resources at their fingertips. It was an exhausting and exhilarating day – we hope to do more soon.

David
Producing Artistic Director and CEO

David Speaks on the Role of the Arts in Students’ Lives – Why We Do What We Do

This year I and YPT were honored to receive the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation’s Exponent Award for visionary leadership. On Monday, June 7th, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, we received the award during a fun and compelling ceremony that highlighted the importance of the work of nonprofits in our community. I am so grateful to the Meyer Foundation, for the award, but also for the simple opportunity to share a few thoughts about why we do what we do. I’ve had several requests since that evening to post or share my remarks in some way, so here they are. I hope you’ll in some way connect with how we at YPT feel about the arts in students’ lives.

Monday, June 7, 2010
“Thank you so much. I’m so grateful to Julie, Rick, Carmen, Amy, the board of directors and everyone at the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, to have their amazing support in my life and the life of Young Playwrights’ Theater. As those of us running organizations know all too well, the proof is in the people. And the Meyer Foundation is filled with true partners, true advocates and true friends to us in the nonprofit sector. I’ve dedicated my life to helping students express themselves and engage the world around them. Because I believe as much as we need to eat, sleep and clothe ourselves to be human, we need to express ourselves. We need to be able to share with our neighbors and the rest of the world what’s bothering us, how others can help us and what we fear or dream of for our future. And that beyond basic reading, writing and arithmetic, students need to be able to think for themselves. They need to be able to imagine, envision, and explain. They need to understand – not just know, but to understand what they’re learning and why. They need to be able to stand up, put their ideas forward and defend them. And they need to be able to inspire and be inspired.

I know that as I reflect on important moments in my life when I truly learned something, most of them didn’t happen sitting silently at a desk. Most of them were experiences, conversations, dialogues with other people that taught me something I didn’t know and stirred something inside me I didn’t know I had. And in this age of Facebook, Twitter and texting there’s an even greater understanding that comes from being in a room face to face, explaining with our whole selves what we mean, and learning about the world from direct experience and dialogue with our fellow human beings.

So as we’re ensuring that critical needs are met in these challenging times, and that students can do well on the latest standardized tests, I think we need to consider not only what will get us through the night, through the next month or next couple of years, but also what we want to be, what we want to look like and what we want to represent when we get through it.  What kind of society do we want to have? How will students compete in the global arena of ideas if they have none to share? And how can we envision our future if we’re not able to dream?

At Young Playwrights’ Theater we give students the tools they need to engage the world.  And in turn they share their dreams, their fears, their hopes and their visions for the future.  Every student writes a play. Every student hears their play performed by professional actors in the classroom. We share the students’ work with their community through readings, festivals and tours and we pay the students for the opportunity to produce their plays. The students introduce their work and speak about why they wrote what they wrote; they drive rehearsals and recognize their own power in the process. Truancy rates drop when we’re in the classroom. Homework completion soars with our assignments.  We see with our assessments that students’ critical and creative thinking improve dramatically during the program. And teachers, students and parents tell us how much the program has meant to them. Because for many of our students, it’s the first time someone has asked them what they think. It’s their first time to really engage in class.  It’s their first time to tell their stories.  And it’s their first time to realize their own true potential – a revelation of who they are, and who they could be.

Tonight, this honor helps me and all of us at YPT know that what we do matters – that having a vision, and thinking outside the box, makes a difference; that we have partners who believe in our mission; and that service toward a greater good is possible, even today. And that’s a huge gift. I want to thank my fellow recipients, who bring hope, love and strength to so many; thank you to my amazing staff at Young Playwrights’ Theater, Patrick Torres, Brigitte Moore, Elizabeth Andrews, who inspire me every day with their dedication, their passion and their generosity; to our wonderful board of directors and our amazing chair Brian Kennedy; thank you to the greatest Founder a successor could wish for, Karen Zacarias, and of course to our students, for their dedication, their inspiration and their awe-inspiring work; and to my family –  my parents, my sister, my beautiful wife Alex, my son Henry and my two-week old daughter Della for their love and grace in my life. I am grateful to do this work and I am so very grateful to be here tonight.  Thank you very, very much.”

Click here to see more info on the award and the video compilation of the evening, produced by the Meyer Foundation.

Hope to see you soon!

David
Producing Artistic Director and CEO

YPT Collaborates with Life Pieces to Masterpieces to Tell the Story of Historic Woodlawn Cemetery

Over the past three weeks, I’ve had the immense pleasure to work with the young men of Life Pieces to Masterpieces (LPTM) on one of our current special projects, a new play we’re creating with the Ward 7 community about historic Woodlawn Cemetery.  As soon as I knew we’d be working in Ward 7, my home neighborhood, I knew LPTM would be a great partner for it.  LPTM is an extraordinary mentorship program for young men in Ward 7.  They give young men life and art skills that allow them to embrace their past and present and prepare for their future.  The young men explore leadership, responsibility, community and create paintings based on their own life stories.  Our group, the Legacy class, mostly consisting of 11 year old young men, began working with me about two and a half weeks ago on workshops exploring Woodlawn Cemetery, its history and the history of those interred at Woodlawn.  We explored how the site relates to our neighborhood and how learning about some of the extraordinary people buried at Woodlawn can help all of us better understand our history and prepare for our future.  For example, Senator Blanche Bruce, born a slave who ultimately became the first African American to serve a full term in the US Senate, is buried there.  Congressman Langston, first African American Congressman from Virginia and first civilian dean of Howard University Law School, is buried there.  As well as thousands of extraordinary women who were scholars, artists, educators and homemakers — a total of almost 36,000 people, many in unmarked graves, having been moved from previous sites throughout the city.

After we explored the history and the young men took a tour of the cemetery, we began sketching.  They sketched about 15 pictures and then chose 7 of those to paint.  First their teachers set up huge blank canvasses on the wall.  Each young man was given three primary colors and tasked with creating their own rich textures and colors and painting the canvasses freely, resulting in about 12 different colors of canvas.  Once these were dry the next day, the students figured out what figures or shapes they needed to create to convey their sketch onto canvas.  They then picked from the larges canvases they’d painted and drew the shapes on the back, then cutting these shapes out of the canvases.  Then they painted other canvases as backdrops for their paintings and, once they were dry, laid out the figures, symbols and landmarks from Woodlawn they’d created onto the backdrop.  They then sewed these patterns and shapes onto the canvas and stretched the canvases onto wooden frames.

The seven resulting paintings, all inspired by Woodlawn, will serve as the backdrop and setting for our readings of the play we’re creating with the community.  Plus, these young men have created poems and monologues about their insights and inspirations from Woodlawn, all of which will be added into the stew of the play, mixing their voices into a tapestry of voices about Woodlawn that will not only share our history but also our community.   The resulting paintings are extraordinary and inspired — I can’t wait for you to see them and meet these young men at the readings we’ll hold on September 11th at Harman Hall downtown, and at Woodlawn Cemetery, as part of a huge volunteer and service celebration at the site.  I hope you’ll come see us and join in our community!

 

You can learn more about YPT’s Woodlawn Cemetery project on YPT’s website.

You can learn more about Life Pieces to Masterpieces here.

David
Producing Artistic Director and CEO

A Message from YPT’s Producing Artistic Director and CEO

This season, as we celebrate our 15th Birthday, we’re inviting you to enter our work in a whole new way, to gain your insights into the work by sharing our own and asking you to engage with us. In the coming weeks and months all of us in the company and on staff will be posting entries about the work that we’re doing, from programs and specials projects to development and production. We hope you’ll enjoy this bird’s eye view of how we do what we do and that it’ll inspire you to join us in helping to give students the tools they need to engage the world. Visit often to catch up on what’s been happening and stay connected with what’s next.   Welcome to our community, our family, our company. We hope to see you again soon.

David
Producing Artistic Director and CEO