YPT’s Top 10 of 2011

As we wrapped up another exciting year and wondered how it was already 2012, I read a lot of year-end lists. Albums, documentaries, political blunders, celebrity breakups… December was filled with lists meant to sum up the best (and worst) of the year. Well, how did YPT fare this past year? You decide! Here are YPT’s top 10 moments of 2011:

10. In 2011, YPT was thrilled to expand our programming and performances into Montgomery County, Maryland. In the spring, we received funding from the DIVAs Fund of the Montgomery County Community Foundation to bring our Express Tour into underserved Montgomery County middle schools, reaching over 1,000 at-risk youth with free performances and interactive workshops. We also expanded our After-School Playwriting Program into several community organizations, and served over 150 students at Long Branch Recreation Center in Montgomery County with our Summer Playwriting Program.

9. In the fall of 2011, YPT was selected to participate in the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ highly competitive UPSTART capacity building program for 2012. This competitive grant, which YPT also received in in 2007, is awarded to organizations that have demonstrated strong organizational and fiscal practices and could most benefit from intensive financial and technical assistance to develop new strategic initiatives and support core administrative systems and leadership development.

8. In the summer of 2011, YPT Producing Artistic Director and CEO David Snider was awarded the Hands On Greater DC Cares Essence of Leadership Award, which recognizes business leaders who are simultaneously working toward economic prosperity and transformative social change.

7. YPT lauched the Student Advisory Council to create an opportunity for continued dialogue with some of our most involved alumni, who offer invaluable inspiration and input about our programming and performances.

6. In recognition of the work of staff, artists, alumni and board members to further YPT’s mission, YPT launched our Company this past winter.

5. In November of 2011, YPT went international! YPT students spent a day at the Canadian Embassy creating cross-cultural theater with the students of Es Artes of Suchitoto, El Salvador! One student said of the experience, “We are all humans, we love theater, and we perform. Being a student and watching a barrier disintegrate was amazing. One of the students from Suchitoto said something close to, ‘I wanted to come here and I thought I would need English, but because of what we all believe in, I don’t have to.’ I guess actions do speak louder than words.”

4. The award-winning Young Playwrights’ Workshop was the only student ensemble to perform at the Capital Fringe Festival. With their original play, Out of the Shadow, the Workshop students took a stand for their peers across the country, presenting multiple perspectives and sharing important stories on the topic of bullying.

3. This past fall was YPT’s longest Express Tour, visiting 56 venues and giving thousands of students and community members their first theater experience.

2. The New Play Festival was bigger than ever with 15 plays over 3 nights. Featured plays were written by students at Bancroft Elementary School, Bell Multicultural High School, Lafayette Elementary School, Maya Angelou Public Charter School, Plummer Elementary School, Swanson Middle School, Watkins Elementary School and Wilson High School.

And the best part of 2011 for YPT? Drumroll please…

1. 2011 saw more plays written by YPT students than ever before! Our work in the classroom led to the creation of 700 new student-written plays. We are so excited to continue sharing them with you all this season!

Liza

Communications and Graphic Design Associate

A Meaningful Gift for Cyber Monday

Today is Cyber Monday – the biggest online shopping day of the year. You have probably already received dozens of emails from online retailers with exclusive, one-day-only deals.

As you work off your turkey hang-over and get a head-start on holiday shopping today, I urge you to consider making a meaningful gift that will wow your family and friends:  a gift that helps a local student fulfill her dreams.

The impact that YPT has on our community is deep and enduring. For many of our students, YPT is their first experience with an interactive, creative writing process. And YPT teaching artists are often the first adults to show these students that their dreams, ideas and beliefs are valuable and can have a powerful impact on the world around them.

Here are some truly meaningful gifts that you can purchase for our students today:

$10 buys a writing portfolio and writing supplies for one student to develop her very first play.

$25 provides a  local student with his very first playwriting workshop – showing him the value of  his dreams and ideas, and helping him engage in his education in fun way.

$50 provides a classroom of local students with their very first experience of live, professional theater – inspiring them to write and share their own stories with the world.

Click here and purchase any of these gifts today in the name of a loved one, and the gift recipient will receive a personal note of thanks from YPT, with a description of the impact of your gift. He or she will also receive a limited edition “Innovation through Arts Education” bracelet, and two, reserved front-row seats at the New Play Festival this April.

Celebrate Cyber Monday by investing in innovation, investing in our children, and buying your share of the future. Now that’s a great deal.

Thank you, as always, for your amazing support. Without you, there would be no YPT.

Brigitte Pribnow Moore
Deputy Director

I would like to thank [YPT] for their support and encouragement as I wrote my play. Working with YPT was the best experience I ever had in school. This is something I will really remember as the best thing from all my years of high school.
            -Saviya Brown, YPT Student

A Day at the Canadian Embassy with YPT

Reflections from a YPT Board Member

A few weeks ago, I spent time at the Canadian Embassy with some of our YPT students and fifteen students from Suchitoto, El Salvador, and it was fabulous!

With our Program Manager Nicole Jost acting as their teaching artist, the two groups of students worked together to develop four skits in about three hours, which they performed for Embassy officials and the other conference attendants. Watching these students in action was a truly powerful and exciting experience! Although there was a language barrier, the kids bonded immediately through their love of theater. The work they created was fun, vibrant and full of great physical energy. And most importantly, the students connected.

At the end of the show, they shared that they had learned that many things were possible, they had more in common than differences and that cultural awareness and understanding can be achieved through the arts. You could feel the positive vibe pulsating in the room. The collaboration was mind-blowing. So, it reminded me why I love YPT so much. It’s an experience that will live with these kids (and me) forever. And, it is the type of global education experience our young people need more of to build bridges across cultures and solve problems creatively and peacefully. Also, I was so proud of our YPT staff – everyone did such an outstanding job bringing this project to life.

After seeing that energy in the kids, I felt energized! Just feels great to be part of such an incredible nonprofit and to be a part of this fabulous Board.

Miriam Gonzales
Vice Chair, YPT Board of Directors

Reflections from a YPT Student

Walking into a room full of voices from a different tongue is intimidating. Or at least it was until this unique experience, when the assumption that we would be divided by that one difference quickly changed.

Together we made a circle and started to learn about one another, our names. Then we moved into groups where the wrong mindset would have been to the detriment of what we were supposed to create. However, our one difference was quickly dissolved by the many similarities we had in common.

We are all humans, we love theater, and we perform. Being a student and watching a barrier disintegrate was amazing. One of the students from Suchitoto said something close to, “I wanted to come here and I thought I would need English, but because of what we all believe in, I don’t have to.”

I guess actions do speak louder than words.

Amber Faith Walton
YPT Student


Ready…Set…Give to the Max for YPT!

I grew up in the era of computers and technology. I order pizza online, take pictures with my phone and post them on Facebook, text instead of calling, and use Google as my go-to. But despite this, I sometimes still feel hopelessly behind the times, as technology, gadgets and social media continue to explode. Confession: when posting a recent update on YPT’s Twitter, I texted my Twitter-savvy younger sister asking about the difference between #something and @something. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up.

So I’m continually impressed by how businesses, non-profits and even the government have embraced this new era, finding innovative ways to use social media to their advantage and as a tool for positive action. And that’s why I am so excited about the gigantic community fundraising event happening TODAY, November 9, 2011, through the entire Greater Washington region.

Today, thousands of area residents are banding together to show their support for their favorite nonprofits during Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington. Give to the Max Day is a huge one-day online fundraising event that will unite Maryland, Virginia and DC communities to support local nonprofits through 24 hours of charitable giving. Give to the Max Day has the potential to raise $3 million for local charities, all online, within 24 hours.  That’s the power of the Internet for you.

Give to the Max Day is a truly a testament to how organizations can harness the power of social media as a force for positive change within an entire community, showing our local non-profits that even in these tough times, we are committed to supporting them. It’s all over Twitter, Facebook, websites, blogs and even DC buses. People are getting excited and organizations are harnessing this energy and building up their armies of support.

Here at YPT we are pumped up. We love social media, and we love our fans. You guys “like” our photos (even those crazy ones of the staff in our Halloween costumes), participate in YPTrivia and read about our achievements and student stories. We know we have the best online community of supporters in the region. Can we prove it to the rest of DC?

On November 9th, every online donation and donor we get through Give to the Max Day will help thousands of YPT students discover the power and value of their voices and stories through arts education. But we can only succeed with your help. Will you help YPT go to the top?

Give to the Max Day is happening RIGHT NOW. It’s going to be huge. How can YOU help?

  • Log on to YPT’s Give to the Max Giving Page NOW to make your contribution of $10 or more to YPT. Every dollar and every donor has an impact.
  • Share your support for Give to the Max and YPT on your social media pages and follow YPT on Facebook and Twitter for updates during the event. Be our champion, recruit your friends and cheer us to the top!
  • Then, sit back and celebrate with us, and know that you played a crucial role in helping us invest in the next generation of great American innovators — and prepare our amazing students for success.

And don’t forget to come to our Express Tour Showcase on MONDAY to see your contribution in action! All GTM donors will receive a special thanks in the program, and you’ll enjoy three hilarious and insightful students plays, along with the requisite yummy treats. November 14, 7:30pm, GALA Hispanic Theatre, FREE.

Okay, YPT friends. In the words of Supergirl, “It’s go time!”  Ready, set, GIVE!

Alison
Development and Producing Associate

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

Calling All Designers: Innovate for YPT

YPT is excited to announce our first ever t-shirt design contest!

We are looking for designs that capture the idea of “Innovation through Arts Education.” The winning design will be announced on November 7, 2011.

Innovation through Arts Education, huh? So what does that mean? As President Barack Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union address, “To win the future, America needs to out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build the rest of the world.” At YPT, we know our students will not “win the future” by correctly answering multiple choice questions on standardized tests. We are committed to teaching our students to innovate, so they’re ready for the challenges of tomorrow, giving them the tools they need to think critically, solve problems creatively and share their ideas clearly with the rest of the world.

As YPT launches our first-ever online store, we are looking for a flagship t-shirt design that captures the message and the promise of “Innovation through Arts Education,” to spread the word about the importance of keeping the arts in the classroom.

Our Mission
Young Playwrights’ Theater teaches students to express themselves clearly and creatively through the art of playwriting.

Through interactive in-school and after-school programs, YPT activates student learning and inspires students to understand the power of language and realize their potential as both individuals and artists. By publicly presenting and discussing student-written work, YPT promotes community dialogue and respect for young artists.

How It Works

  1. Create a beautiful design that captures YPT’s mission and commitment to Innovation through Arts Education!
  2. Create a mockup of the t-shirt with your design.
  3. Email lharbison@yptdc.org your design, along with this form, with the subject line “YPT T-Shirt Contest”. Submissions are due on Thursday, October 27.
  4. The YPT staff will choose our three favorite designs and post the finalists on Facebook for a public vote based on number of “likes”!
  5. The winning design will be sold in YPT’s CafePress store and worn by staff and supporters to promote our Innovation through Arts Education campaign. The winning designer will also receive a free t-shirt featuring his/her design, a feature interview article featuring his/her design work in an upcoming addition of The YPT Wire (reaching 3,000 readers), and front row seats and public recognition from the stage during YPT’s Express Tour Showcase on November 14, 2011.
  6. Every t-shirt sold will raise $5 for YPT, and help spread the word about the importance of keeping the arts in the classroom.

Design Rules

  • Your design must be sent as a vector graphic or actual size JPEG (minimum resolution 300 DPI).
  • Designs should complement YPT’s existing branding and support our mission. YPT orange is #F8971D (RGB: 248, 151, 29; CMYK: 0, 48, 100, 0). YPT purple is #5D2070 (RGB: 93, 32, 112; CMYK: 63, 95, 0, 30).
  • You may use YPT’s company logo and the Innovation through Arts Education logo within, or as inspiration for your design, but this is not a requirement.
  • All designs should be for a white t-shirt. Designs should fit within a square on the chest of the shirt, and no part of the design can be on the sleeves, shoulders or stomach.
  • YPT assumes all entries are the work and property of the entrant, with all rights granted therein.
  • You can submit more than one design, but only one of your designs will be eligible for the final voting round.
  • YPT Staff will choose three designs based on originality, effective visualization and communication of “Innovation through Arts Education” and completeness of design.

Have fun innovating!

Liza
Communications and Graphic Design Associate

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