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

Insights from YPT’s Summer Intern

Throughout my primary schooling, I was fortunate enough to have always been a student of the theater. In senior year of high school, I participated in Young Playwrights’ Theater’s In-School Playwriting Program. At the time, I was thrilled to have a creative release built into a school curriculum which was getting old. I was asked to use my voice and be heard in a way that boosted my confidence and excitement for college. Now that I have graduated high school, I cannot help but be concerned with my new role as a student of life; “the real world,” as they call it. The inspiration I’d harnessed with YPT quickly turned from creative momentum to pressure. The question in the forefront of my brain changed from, “What can I do?” to “What will I do?!” As a YPT student I’d learned that playwriting could be a therapeutic tool for expression and communication, but how could my love for theater translate back to the community?

I came to YPT, and they allowed me in yet again, but this time, as an intern. My summer spent with YPT has taught me how theater breeches the confines of the stage and expands to the office, and how the office can extend to the community.

Possibly the greatest reward of working with YPT is that I have gained a more thorough understanding of why theater works with education. Through reading YPT’s curricula and implementing them with youth at summer camps, I have been able to make the connection between the art I love and its educational function. I recall that as a YPT student, I was asked to take responsibility for my voice, to find inspiration and put it to work for me. That training has been put to use in so many ways, even in writing this blog post. Its value, however, is now much better understood since I have also experienced teaching this skill.

YPT gave me the opportunity to work alongside professional teaching artists to implement the curriculum we’d been working on at a summer camp workshop for five to seven year olds. At first the course was all fun and games. The simple drama-oriented games we played were catalysts for releasing energy, and also focusing it. In playing games such as “Kitty Wants a Corner” or “Doctor’s Office,” the class was forced to listen to each other and communicate as directly as possible, given the game’s rules.  Imaginations went wild during these games, and it was our job to give the students tools to put that imagination to work. When we got to creating characters and their enemies, the private lives of students began to peek through the short monologues they were writing. It was incredible to watch these young minds recreate the young lives they were living through the incarnations of a horse who hated people, or a princess who could kiss butterflies, or a pencil who hated the eraser.

In our short hour-long workshops we would explore our physical expression and bodily limits through games, and then we would breech those limits with pen on paper. I helped students sound out the spelling of words and figure out how to speak the thoughts of their characters. The effect of this hands-on learning was strikingly vivid with students so young. The idea of taking on another’s role or voice was radical to them, but as they picked up on it, I could see them really feeling for these characters and articulating more depth into the character’s own psyche.

When we moved on to writing dialogues, it became clear that this class was about more than artistic expression. We were guiding these kids through conflict resolution, and teaching the value of diction and clarity when communicating. We were witnessing the power of imagination, and then offering the tools to give that power a purpose. I would read out a line from a student’s script and the response was either an explosion of new ideas, or an awe-inspired stare. We were giving these students their own words, breathing life into them, and revealing the great influence of language and their power over it.

Back in the office, I would plug away at taking inventory and organizing YPT’s resources, and work with the YPT crew to create their own ongoing, living work of art. In the classroom, my job was to offer the gift of education that would keep on giving— in the students’ social and academic lives. In the office, YPT staff were doing the same. The job of the playwright is to envision all the aspects and needs of a performance. The job of YPT is to envision all the needs of every player—be they the teaching artist, the professional actors, the students, or the community—and then to provide it in order to facilitate the ongoing creation of art and sociality.

The variety of work I have been able to do over this short summer is a testament to the type of organization this is, and the type of people who work here, and further, to the nature of the theater arts. My creative energies have been put to use doing housekeeping of props, keeping in touch with YPT contributors and alumni, working the curriculum hands-on with kids, as well as behind the scenes doing research, and just bearing witness to all the things that go into this world. The staff never fail to have students in mind as they plan events and productions, reach out to community, develop teaching artists, brainstorm opportunities to continue work with former students, reinvigorate curricula, keep up with celebrities (such as Josh Groban) who support arts education, give time to individual students who just want somebody to read their work, or even invest in educating the summer intern!

These people are lovers of art and education, and theater seems to have the perfect make-up for such a combination. Through the medium of performance, YPT gives students the opportunity to turn real life into art and art into real life, thus revealing the artists to themselves. The staff themselves work like artists, drawing inspiration from the youth and using the local community as a resource to turn ideas into action. I was lucky enough to be one such resource this summer, and now I can see, simply enough, potential, in every interaction and every person.

Sarah Giffin
YPT Summer Intern and Playwright Alumna

The March of Makeshift

On July 23, 2011, the students of YPT’s Young Playwrights’ Workshop stopped by the Capital Fringe Festival to perform Out of the Shadow, their original play tackling the issue of bullying. You can read more about the Workshop here, and check out stories about the Fringe performance on WAMU 88.5 and ABC7/WJLA-TV.

In the powerful poem below, YPT student Josie Torres describes her experience collaborating with her fellow Workshop students over the past year to create Out of the Shadow.

The March of Makeshift

A place to those
who look for an existence
outside the normal.
These turquoise hearts
compliment the very sunset
that gave birth to us.
There was no sacrifice.
There was no agony.
There was no fallen hope.
In this atmosphere
of a lucid moon
only imagination can grow.
These wooden creaks
are the very sounds
of past wandering spirits.
An abundance of
philosophical and
embarrassing moments
is a method of how we stand strong
together on this stage.
The shadow
will not bare us down!
The passions of the sea
which is a representation
of our trustworthy bond,
grows into a tidal wave and
hits the shores of ignorance.
The souls that lingered on
these streets will not suffer
bitterness of others.
We dance uncaged.
We chose to be untamed
in dignity.
We do not know the
meaning of limits.
We thrive in beauty
and we murdered the beast!
I am marked
by a rose.
I have been signed
by a thread.
I have the emblem
of a long forgotten crest
of creativity,
of flare,
of intellect,
of eccentricity
and of love.
The cavern of skulls,
the brick wall,
and the barbed wires
will crumble down
and the sunlight
will show our path.

Josie Torres
YPT Young Playwright

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!