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

YPT Summer Plays Are Heating Up!

This summer, YPT has once again joined the Horizons Program at the Maret School. The Horizons program helps students prepare for the next school year by challenging the students academically, and inspiring a love of learning. YPT works specifically with students about to enter the 6th grade, which is a big transition – the leap to middle school! I remember the summer before I started middle school. I was very anxious about the new school building and all of the older students. I would have benefitted from a program like Horizons, so it is a pleasure to spend the summer with these amazing students. The playwrights have been  focused on character development and conflict in drama. They have just spent a considerable amount of time working on creating their protagonist and antagonist, and I have to admit the plays are looking very promising! We have one character who is a movie star, but his agent is withholding all of his money in order to build a bigger house; another character is falling victim to the other women on her basketball team because they don’t want her to be the captain anymore; and there is a Mother fighting to stop her daughter from getting a tattoo because she is afraid it will ruin her child’s dream of being a teacher. I look forward to seeing where all of these journeys end up! If the energy and passion of these students is reflected in their characters, then these plays are going to be incredible!

Patrick
Associate Artistic Director