5-Line Playwriting Tips from the Experts

It’s the last week of YPT’s 5-Line Playwriting Challenge!  Have you submitted your play yet?

We’ve already received some amazing plays from YPT’s super creative community. Check out these teasers below, including this touching play sent to us from our Young Playwrights’ Workshop alumna, Reyna Rios:reyna

I LOVE YOU

Jasmine: Hi, (shakes Martin’s his hand) my name is Jasmine Belen Martinez. People say that I am different, but I like to see that as a positive thing. I am always doing crazy things to show people how much I love and care about them.

Martin: But you don’t know me, dear Jasmine. I am just Martin Jackson, a homeless man that is invisible to everyone around me.  How do you expect me to believe that you love    someone like me?

Jasmine: Well let me show you that I do. Please say “yes?” (to be continued on December 21st!)

Or your play can be a comedy, like this one submitted by our newest board member, Catherine Crum, written with some of her friends (5-line plays can be a group effort!)

“URINE TROUBLE”: A PLAY IN ONE ACT

(two girls sit at desks.  a teacher hovers in the background.)

Girl A: (whispers) I have to pee so bad!

Girl B: Girl, you know you can’t leave during the SAT!

Teacher (slapping a ruler in his hand):  If you two continue discussing answers, you will be asked to leave, you will never go to college and you will end up playing the electric cello for pennies …

(Will she finish her SAT? Visit our YouTube channel on December 21st to find out!)

Did these great plays give you some ideas of your own? There’s still time!

Donate $25 or more before Friday and submit an original 5-line play, and you’ll get to see your play performed on YouTube.  We’re calling in the most talented artists we know – our students – to turn the tables on our supporters and bring YOUR words to life.  Plays can be funny, serious, dramatic, touching, satirical or just plain weird!  There are no wrong answers, and no idea is too crazy!  For complete challenge rules, click here.

Stuck on that first line? We know it can be hard to get started, so we went to our award-winning student ensemble for help! The Young Playwrights’ Workshop’s original plays have been featured in the Capital Fringe Festival and Intersections Festival, and will be seen in the 2013 Source Festival, so they know a thing or two about playwriting, and they agreed to share their own words of wisdom:

“Use current events! Take a piece of reality and make it fun!” – Edwin

“Never say you can’t do it. All plays start with weird ideas.” – Patriciopatricio

“Take your time. Think of a long term character, if one is used.” – Maxwell

“No matter how hard it is to think of what to write, keep it going. Don’t stop.” – Chris

Think outside the box. Think of something only your true self can write.” – Jardel

“Live your mind and express it all.” – Chrissilly

“Agarra tu papel y pon toda tu pasión y también has lo como que enserio fuera real, lo que tu estas actuando.” – Claudia

“Get silly” 🙂 – Morena

Click here now to make your donation of $25 or more to support YPT’s fall fundraising campaign, and send your 5-line play by 5pm on Friday, December 14th to abeyrle@yptdc.org.

Thank you, as always, for your support. Our students can’t wait to perform your plays!

Supergirl’s Training Journal

Calling all YPT superheroes!

Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause is officially one month away!  We can’t wait to run with all our friends and supporters on October 14th!

As we enter the final stretch, we’ve recruited the ultimate trainer – our very own Supergirl, YPT’s 8k team leader and star of our recent reality show training video! Supergirl was created by student playwright Dakota Wenberg in her play A Jewel of Date, which was produced in our 2011 New Play Festival and Express Tour. We asked Dakota to bring Supergirl back to help motivate our walkers and runners by sharing her training regimen, and guess what … while Supergirl may be leading all our hardcore 8k competitors, she started out just like everyone else.

 Check out Supergirl’s hilarious and inspirational journey from “Supersoregirl” to race-ready, as imagined by Dakota. Then don’t forget to register for the race on October 14 and support YPT! As Supergirl reminds us, real superheroes aren’t about winning; they are about helping others in superhuman ways!”


Hey everybody!

It’s Supergirl here, ready to get you excited about the upcoming Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause! I will be helping my friends at YPT raise money for their programs. You can follow my progress as I get ready to run hard this fall.

Day 1 – I woke up this morning to the ring of my home phone. I picked it up and who should it be but my friend Laurie down at YPT. She came to me with an urgent plea for a superhero to lead the charge in Acumen Solutions’ Race for a Cause. I immediately agreed. Unfortunately only after I put down the phone did I realize exactly what I had signed up for. I had to run; dad taught me to fly not run. This was going to be much more difficult than I had expected. So who was I supposed to turn to for help? Who was insane enough to run every day up and down brutal hills while torturing their every muscle in their bodies? Who would willfully submit themselves to miles of endless scenery and pain on foot? Then it hit me, like a baseball. I reached for my phone and started dialing furiously. There was only one solution to my problem, the Cross Country team.

Day 2 – 5:30 AM. Sunrises are overrated. Sweat and pain takes all the beauty out of it. The things they don’t tell you at the beginning of practice could fill an entire three part series. For instance wheezing and shortness of breath are not considered signs of a pending heart attack. I had no idea the team was made up of Flash wannabes, I just wanted to finish the race, they wanted to sprint for 5 kilometers or so I gathered from their training regime. You would think that stopping running would stop the pain, but no, it only starts a new cycle of discomfort. I see a hot bath in my future.

Day 3 – 5:30 AM. I can’t do it, I won’t go, they can’t make me. I’m going to hide. Yeah like I’m going back there again. Supergirl? More like Supertiredgirl, Supersoregirl, and Superstupidforsigningupforthisgirl. I made the mistake of telling dad about my promise to YPT and he’s determined to make me go. Right now I’m hiding under the sink in desperate hope that the metal will throw my father’s x-ray vision off. Shh. I hear him coming…. ACK! Caught, think fast. Oh yeah . . . Why am I under the sink?  . . . I was just checking up on the pipes dad! Gotta run.

Day 15 – 5:30 am. I fear that I may have scared my readers off with my apocalyptic tales of running, but now that it’s been about two weeks I’m starting to get the hang of it. My muscles don’t hurt anymore and I can run faster than I ever have before. I’ve elevated my expectations, and I no longer want to simply finish the race, but I want to kick some hiney. I am no longer staggering into the locker room ten minutes after everybody has showered and gone home. The coaches have stopped giving me those sad sympathetic eyes. I remember when dad took me on my first around the world flying trip, it took two hours and twenty minutes, and we almost hit Everest (navigation error a.k.a. dad refused to ask for direction when we got blown off course at the Tien Shan Mountains.) I never thought running could give you the same high as flying. I love this!!!

Day 29 – 8:30 PM. I’ve got ten minutes to lights out. Tomorrow is race day and I need my sleep. Today I pounded carbs all the way up until the big team pasta dinner. Unfortunately I had forgotten what a super human appetite I have and before I knew what was going on I had downed half a pan of baked ziti and two loaves of garlic bread. Lucky for me I blended in with my teammates just fine — have you seen how much teenagers eat?  I am in perfect shape, I am ready. I will win.

Day 30– 5:43 AM. Coach told me I could sleep in until 6:30 before the race but I can’t seem to shake off something Dad said to me last night as I was getting ready to sleep.  He reminded me that real superheroes aren’t about winning; they are about helping others in superhuman ways – like the super organizations that will benefit from Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause.  I let my ambition get the best of me.  Today is not about being number one – today is about helping others be the best they can be.  Today we sweat for others.  Tomorrow they lead us to new superhero heights.

Don’t forget to register for the race by October 11th!  We can’t wait to see you on the 14th!

Celebrating a Season of New Plays

In 2011, YPT students wrote more than 700 new plays. That’s a staggering number! And just like literary managers at theaters across the country, we’re overwhelmed with more amazing work than we could possibly put on stage.

That’s why we send actors directly into the classroom, so all of our playwrights can hear a selection from their work performed by professionals. Students consistently report that seeing the actors is their favorite part of the In-School Playwriting Program. (In fact, our students are delighted whenever the actors visit – sometimes they beg teaching artists to “bring back the actors!”)

These in-class readings are powerful events, as students are often inspired by the work of their peers. At Bell Multicultural High School, some students were moved to tears by the work of playwright Javier Reyes, whose play was featured in the 2011 New Play Festival, and playwright Cristian Miguel, whose play was read at New Writers Now! – The Fight for Family. Both young playwrights explored difficult issues, depicting a character’s struggle with addiction, and a family’s struggle with the decision to serve in the military, respectively. There was electricity in the air in Ms. Restak’s room as seasoned actors read the plays for the first time, bringing overwhelming emotion to the tragic stories.

But when it comes to selecting our season, it can be painful to let a really good play go unseen by a larger audience. Out of that big pool of 700, only 12 plays go on to the New Play Festival. Others make it into our New Writers Now! staged reading series. And some go on to be seen by audiences across the region in our Express Tour. Our 2011-2012 season already includes 22 plays, plus additional scenes, poetry and devised work. But we wondered: could we do more?

So with this year’s New Play Festival, we decided to celebrate more student playwrights than ever before. In addition to the twelve Featured Playwrights, we named fourteen Finalists. These Finalists are the students who made it to the top level of our Reading Committee (composed of YPT Company Members, staff, teaching artists and students). There’s Paola Rivera, whose play Super Ness Save the World! impressed readers with a smug, hilarious villain named Mean Cone. (Mean Cone’s first line? “I just tipped over a building with lots of innocent people in it and they all died!” And then he delivers an evil laugh!) Then there’s Evan McLean, who wowed us with his bold decision to personify the concept of war, transforming the idea into a character with fiery red hair and an aggressive attitude. And there’s Christian Bullock, who bravely told the story of a teenager struggling to escape an abusive home. These sometimes moving, sometimes funny, always inspiring plays deserve to be heard!

In the weeks leading up to the New Play Festival showcase performances at GALA Hispanic Theatre, we’ll present plays written by these Finalists in a series of Community Readings. We launched our season of new plays with readings at our Kickoff Party in January. Then in early March, we presented exceptional work by middle school Finalists in an Arlington Community Reading. We’ll visit neighborhoods across the region to make sure each of our fourteen Finalists gets a chance to see their play brought to life.

You can check out outstanding plays written by elementary school Finalists at our Capitol Hill Community Reading on Tuesday March 20 at 7pm at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW). The evening promises to be a fun (and family-friendly!) collection of wacky characters and comic performances. And don’t miss our Featured Playwrights on April 23 and 24 at GALA!

See you there,

Nicole
Program Manager

Love Stinks

New Writers Now! – Mad Love is coming up soon! In preparation for this Anti-Valentine’s Day celebration, the YPT staff decided to share some of our worst date stories. Which do you think is truly the worst date?

1. In high school, I went to prom with a guy I had a huge crush on, but nothing ever happened, and eventually the school year ended and I moved past that.  I found out months later that he was dating my best friend behind my back during that entire time.  Definitely do not miss high school.

2. I went on one date with a girl in college, and I thought it went pretty well. But then I didn’t hear from her for a couple weeks. I figured she wasn’t interested. My suspicions were confirmed when a friend told me she was seeing someone else. Then, out of the blue, she called me and asked to come over to my house. When she arrived, she said, “We need to talk.” She had come over to break up with me! After one date! It was incredibly awkward, and I couldn’t get her to stop until she got through her whole breakup speech.

3. When I was in high school, I had an enormous crush on this boy in my theater class.  He worked at the local movie theater, so I applied for a job there to get closer to him.  I was hired, and while I loved hanging out with him, our boss was an enormous jerk who loved to make our lives miserable (he actually smeared his hand over a window I had just cleaned once to make me do it again).  Anyway, after a few months I got up the nerve to ask the boy to see Woody Allen’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion with me one night after work.  He said yes, and after a week of being terrified about it, the day arrived.  At the end of our shift, however, our boss decided to scream at us for half an hour, about what I can’t begin to remember.  By the time he was done, we had missed half the movie, and we were both so irritated that any hope I had for romance was gone.  I got over the crush soon after, but we did agree a couple of years later that if neither of us are married by Valentine’s Day 2017, we’ll meet on top of the Empire State Building and get married.  We signed our oath on a popcorn bag, so maybe we’ll end up together after all.

4. I once went on a blind date to some sort of holiday festival. The guy was awkward but really nice. All of a sudden, he said he wanted to check out what was going on at the other end and he’d be back. I thought it was weird, but went with it. Ten minutes later, I got a text from him saying, “I don’t know. Some girls kiss on the first date, right?” Clearly, this text message was not meant for me. He came back a few minutes later and I realized I would not be able to ignore this, as eventually he would look at his phone and see what had happened. I handed him the phone. He grabbed it with a blank smile, but as soon as he began reading the text message, his face morphed into an expression of sheer terror as he tried to figure out what was going on. “Wait, what? How did you..?” he fumbled.  “Oh… Oh.” When he understood, his face read utter defeat. In the end, I gave him a pity kiss. Unfortunately, he thought that meant we were in a relationship, which made the inevitable end to this story much more painful.

5. When I was a freshman in college, a guy I barely knew invited me to grab lunch at a local diner. Everything was going fine until he decided to propose to me (ring and all) as I was taking a bite of my grilled cheese sandwich. I thought he was kidding at first, and I started to laugh, but he immediately looked crestfallen, and I realized he was serious. He said something about love at first sight, and something else about fate and carrying around his mother’s ring “just in case.” I turned him down, but I’m pretty sure he got married before he graduated college. (If at first you don’t succeed…)

Now it’s your turn. Think you’ve really had the worst date ever? Send us your story and, if we like it, we’ll post it in the lobby at New Writers Now! – Mad Love. Audience members will vote on their favorite. To be included in the contest, email your best story of angst and betrayal to lharbison@yptdc.org by Friday, February 10.

Liza
Communications and Graphic Design Associate

What’s So Great About YPT? Ask the Students.

This Wednesday evening, a group of very special guests dropped by our YPT Board meeting. Five members of YPT’s Young Playwrights’ Workshop and new Student Advisory Council shared pizza and cookies with our Board of Directors and talked about their experience working with YPT.

They had participated in YPT programming in a variety of ways – as students in our In-School Playwriting Program and our after-school Young Playwrights’ Workshop, and as featured playwrights and performers in our New Play Festival and our New Writers Now! reading series. They were YPT experts – a true authority on our work in and out of the classroom.

Listening to these students share their thoughts – on YPT and the value of arts education, on school, on their dreams for the future – was deeply inspiring.

One student described her experience as a shy student, afraid to speak out in class. She credited YPT with helping her find her voice and share her ideas with confidence. (Listening to her speak, it was hard to believe that she had ever been a quiet student.) “I want to thank you,” she told the board. “Without you, I wouldn’t be here speaking like this today.”

Another student said that YPT is like a family. She explained that YPT’s Young Playwrights’ Workshop provides her with the opportunity to interact with students that would never be friends or even necessarily feel comfortable speaking with one another in school. At YPT, these students are equals, removed from the clique culture of the school day, and working together to create something bigger than themselves.

One Board member asked the students what they would say to a principal or administrator if he or she decided to cut YPT from their menu of in-school and after-school programming. All five students vehemently responded, “We would never let that happen.”

One of the students – the one who described herself as formerly shy – explained that YPT teaches students to learn and think creatively, and that this kind of thinking is the glue that connects and holds all the other academic and extracurricular activities together. “Without YPT,” she said, “everything else would just shatter.”

Another Board member asked the students how YPT could make their experience even better. The students threw out a number of ideas to build on existing programs – like finding ways to include YPT alumni in programming after they move on to college.  They expressed a strong desire to return to YPT after graduation to serve as mentors and advocates for their younger peers. (We think that’s a great idea.)

One of the younger students told the Board Chair that we should find a way to let kids know that writing a play with YPT is different and better than “just another writing assignment.”

“What makes it better?” the Board Chair asked.

The student shrugged. “It’s fun.”

Interested in meeting our students and joining in on the fun? Check out New Writers Now! – Mad Love, on February 13, our next free professional performance of student work (and our first-ever anti-Valentine’s Day celebration).


Brigitte
Deputy Director

YPT’s Fall Semester: Reflecting on the Journey

Around this time two years ago, I was finishing my first semester as a freelance teaching artist, and my first semester with YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program.  I had spent the fall semester with a class of eighth graders at Swanson Middle School, teaching them about character and conflict, structure and stage directions, but mostly being awed over and over by their creativity, maturity and intelligence.  One particularly wonderful play, Love Math and Martians Don’t Mix by Cassidy Boomsma, went on to be produced in the 2010 New Play Festival, and then went out on the Express Tour the following season.  As I worked with Cassidy to dramaturge her play and watched her grow as a student and a playwright, I was amazed at how far she had come.

Now, as the new year begins, I am YPT’s Program Associate, and have just completed another semester at Swanson, in addition to overseeing our other in-school programming.  This fall, we reached more students than ever before, with 24 workshops in eight schools.  898 students, led by eight fearless teaching artists, dove headfirst into the art of playwriting.  Over the past few weeks, from the hundreds of plays produced by these students, YPT has narrowed the pool down to 26 finalists to be considered for the 2012 New Play Festival.  For the first time, we were aided in this selection by our Company, which was created just this year. This diverse collection of students, directors, teacher, actors and writers will continue to assist us as we choose the final ten to twelve plays that will be performed in this year’s festival. 

While I am now a full-time employee at YPT, with much more responsibility than I had two years ago, setting foot back in the first school where I taught our curriculum brought back for me many of the core reasons why I wanted to work here in the first place.  Because of our curriculum, which challenges our students, makes them think, makes them laugh, and takes them on a twelve week journey, at the end of which they have a finished play.  Because of wonderful classroom teachers like Karen Biggs-Leeds, who keeps her classes perfectly in line, while at the same time making obvious how much she cares for them.  But, most of all, because of the young playwrights: their ideas, their silliness, their perceptions of the world, their willingness to tackle something completely new and their determination to get it just right.  The joy and pride in bringing out of them an incredible story that they had all along, but never shared, or didn’t even realize was there.

And while the process for choosing the plays to feature in the New Play Festival is different, just like two years ago I find myself eagerly waiting to see which plays will be produced, wondering what the rest of the reading committee thinks about the plays that I nominated, and looking forward to working with a young playwright during the dramaturgy process.

As we enter the spring semester, we are preparing to serve four more schools, bringing us to all eight wards of the district this school year.  Five teaching artists are preparing to help bring to life the stories of an entirely new group of students.  And while YPT has undergone changes upon changes since the first class I taught, and so have I, returning to Swanson reminded me that the creativity of our students and the quality of their work, as well as our reasons for teaching them, remains the same.

Laurie
Program Associate

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