A YPT wedding!

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Reyna and Edwin’s engagement photo! Photo by Samuel Diaz.

“Don’t be afraid to share yourself with someone. Love doesn’t grow on its own … it takes two people to teach it to one another.”
– Reyna Rios

In the fall of 2010, two standout students from YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program at Bell Multicultural High School joined our Young Playwrights’ Workshop. Both had written terrific, touching plays, and both were excited to develop their artistic talents. But each had an ulterior motive, too: to explore their feelings for each other.

“We met in AP Spanish class,” Reyna Rios explains. “I was shy and sat at the back of the class, hoping to not be noticed. Yet, Edwin saw me.”

“The teacher told us to find a partner to share our story with,” Edwin Martinez continues. “I immediately turned towards Reyna and asked if she would be my partner. Little did we both know that was the start of something special in our lives.”

After Reyna took our In-School Program, she loved it so much that she decided to join the Workshop. She invited Edwin to join with her, and he readily accepted. Soon, the two established themselves as core members of the ensemble: setting the tone with their energy and commitment, and pouring their spirits of kindness and respect into the beautiful anti-bullying play, Out of the Shadow.

“That’s when the liking [Edwin] turned into loving him,” Reyna explains. “We would go to the Workshop, and we would see this whole other side of each other: the creative, fearless, passionate, and most times silly side.”

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Edwin (bottom L) and Reyna (top R) in their first Young Playwrights’ Workshop!

After Workshop hours, the two teens’ love deepened. Edwin would escort Reyna home on the Metro, “[just] to spend as much time with her … as I could,” then turn around and head back to his own stop. On these train rides, they discovered a mutual love of self-expression, social justice and youth work.

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“I feel like I can contribute a lot,” Reyna said.

“I want to help … people younger than I am to choose a better path,” said Edwin.

Their eyes met, and they smiled.

Thus began a relationship that has captivated all who know and admire Edwin and Reyna. The two began dating in October, 2010, and have been going steady since then. In that time, they have gone to college, volunteered with YPT and Higher Achievement, worked as teachers and community organizers and given back daily to their communities.

Reyna is now the Program Administrator at Big Learning, a nonprofit that “operate[s] instructional programs in language, sciences, and creative enrichment for elementary and middle school students in Montgomery County, Maryland.” Edwin works in Web Operations for National Geographic, and does side projects “in hopes of building something better in the future.” They also continue to be terrific ambassadors for YPT, speaking at our 2013 and 2014 galas about the impact of our work in their lives!

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Edwin accepts the Tornado Boy Award for Super Awesome Alumnus at our 2014 gala!

Recently, the YPT family started wondering how long it would be until these two young leaders tied the knot. Then, in November, 2016, we got the news: they were engaged! We were over the moon with joy for our beloved friends. But the news only got better from there: they were going to get married in December in the Josephine Butler Parks Center, one floor beneath our office!

“[The] Parks Center [is] where we were able to think creatively with one another,” says Edwin, “a gateway of expression to the public and into ourselves at a personal level.”

“[It’s] the perfect place for our love to be sealed,” Reyna continues. “It’s YPT’s home!”

We can’t wait to be there – in person or in spirit – when Edwin and Reyna knit their lives together forever. As far as we know, this is the first marriage to begin in a YPT workshop, and we couldn’t have wished it for two better people!

We love you, Reyna Rios and Edwin Martinez, and we wish you all the joy and happiness in our hearts. We know that you will continue to strive for social change, and will impact more lives than we can ever imagine. Look out, world, the power couple is coming! As Reyna says: “Together, we can do anything.”

Congratulations, Edwin and Reyna! Best of luck to you both!

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YPT’s 20th Anniversary Season: A Look Back

20Fest logo FINAL

That’s a wrap!

YPT’s 20th anniversary performance season is in the books, and it was one for…well, the books.

In the last seven months, YPT has held six unique performances, featuring a grand total of 41 student-written plays. Over 100 professional theater artists participated in YPT’s productions this year, including actors and directors from ten different DC-area theater companies. Nearly 1,000 people attended our free productions, and were inspired to donate upwards of $2,000: enough to fund one more classroom in our 20 Classroom Challenge!

In honor of a record-breaking year of student-written theater, we wanted to remember some of the highlights from a season we’ll never forget!


20Fest Flier FINAL FINALYPT’s 20th Anniversary Festival
Friday, December 12, 2014
7pm
Theater J

YPT’s 20th anniversary season began with a celebration of our rich history: the 20th Anniversary Festival! Featuring twenty of the best plays written in YPT’s first twenty years, 20Fest brought together ten local companies to remount the student pieces in their own signature styles.

From Rorschach Theatre’s reimagining of Ally in Blunderland to Faction of Fools’ commedia dell’arte take on Magnet Dude, 20Fest honored twenty years of young playwrights with transcendent interpretations and performances of their work. Thank you to all who took part in 20Fest – it was such a joy to see the DC theater community rally around young voices!

For photos from 20Fest, click here.
For video of the performance, click here.
To buy Write to Dream, the book containing all the 20Fest plays, click here!

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Silence is Violence flier FINALSilence Is Violence: A #BlackLivesMatter Event
Tuesday, January 29, 2015
7pm
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop

At the dawn of 2015, the #BlackLivesMatter movement had grown into a nationwide outcry against racial injustice and police brutality. Seeing that DC’s young people had little chance to share their own reflections on the movement, YPT did something we’ve never done before: we held a pop-up event.

Conceived and organized in under two weeks, Silence Is Violence: A #BlackLivesMatter Event was an open mic-style forum for artistic and community expression. Before a packed house at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, eleven adult and four youth artists performed works of poetry and prose, including a group reading of response pieces written by sixth graders at Eliot-Hine Middle School.

The event culminated in a space for community artistic response, including a group mural and an #IHaveADream ribbon activity led by activist Omolara Williams McCallister. It was incredible to see so many people empowered to speak their minds!

For photos from Silence Is Violence, click here!
To read the student pieces from the event, visit our blog, Silence Is Violence DC.

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Photo by ShelbyWorks


NWN nofilter flier v2New Writers Now! #nofilter
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
7pm
Anacostia Playhouse

Just two weeks after Silence Is Violence came New Writers Now! #nofilter, YPT’s first professional staged reading of 2015.

In honor of Black History Month, #nofilter featured four powerful plays written by black female students in our In-School Playwriting Program. Presented by YPT in partnership with Wild Women Theatre, the performance captivated the capacity crowd with tales of murder and mystery, love and kinship, teen homelessness and much more.

Through this celebration of young black voices, we were honored to continue the conversation around the #BlackLivesMatter movement. After the show, audience members were invited to contribute their own experiences to the community mural begun at Silence Is Violence.

For photos from #nofilter, click here!
For complete video of the performance, click here.

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2015 NPF Postcard FRONT FINALThe 2015 New Play Festival
April 20-22, 2015
7pm
GALA Hispanic Theatre

After #nofilter came our biggest performance event of the season: the 2015 New Play Festival!

This year’s Festival spanned three nights, featuring fifteen brand-new works written by YPT students. The plays brought to life tales of samurai warriors and dreadlock-nappers; brothers and sisters and fathers and sons; poets, playwrights and, of course, vengeful bacon strips.

The 2015 New Play Festival drew over 400 people to GALA Hispanic Theatre and raised over $1,800, making it among the most successful New Play Festivals in YPT history!

For photos from the 2015 New Play Festival, click here!
Videos from the Festival are not yet online, but you can watch the promotional “showdown” videos here!

To buy the 2015 New Play Festival book, featuring all 32 Featured and Finalist plays, click here!

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Stage Fright flier FINALThe Student Advisory Council Presents: Stage Fright
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
7pm
Busboys and Poets

The close of the New Play Festival marked the end of YPT’s professional performance season, but our students were not done sharing their work!

The Student Advisory Council, a group of YPT alumni who advise our staff and create new work together, followed up last year’s Dear Mr. Stein with a new original play, Stage Fright. Through a series of vignettes and monologues—some funny, some poignant—Stage Fright addressed our everyday fears and not-so-everyday phobias.

The play culminated in a Choose Your Own Adventure piece that brought the audience into the performance, and raised over $200 for YPT in the process!

For photos from Stage Fright, click here!
For the full video of the show, click here!

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YPW Presents 2015 flier FINALThe Young Playwrights’ Workshop Presents: The Art of Understanding
Monday, June 15
7pm
Source

YPT’s 2014-15 performance season concluded with The Art of Understanding, an original play written and performed by the teen artists of our award-winning Young Playwrights’ Workshop!

Weaving together dramatic vignettes and personal poems, The Art of Understanding addressed the subject of mental health through a variety of genres and perspectives. From love stories to tales of escape, the play explored the experience of people with eating disorders, multiple personality disorder, depression and much more.

Presented by CulturalDC as part of the 2015 Source Festival, The Art of Understanding wowed the crowd and sparked a valuable dialogue about mental illness, representation and the creative process. The night ended with a dessert reception celebrating an incredible season and paying homage to those Young Playwrights’ Workshop members moving on to college and more!

For photos from The Art of Understanding, click here!
For an interview with three graduating Workshop seniors, click here!

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Thank you for supporting YPT’s 20th anniversary performance season! We’ll see you in the fall!

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!

Workshop Visitors Inspire and Get Inspired

Workshop and Chinese Theater ArtistsLast week, our Young Playwrights’ Workshop participated in their third international exchange of the year. Six Chinese theater artists visited our studio space along with two translators to learn more about theater in the US. It was fitting that the students were in the midst of writing and rehearsing an original play about meeting strangers!

Everyone introduced themselves and why they were spending that afternoon in YPT’s studio. The Chinese theater artists spoke of their dreams of visiting the US, and the enthusiasm with which they partook in every activity during their trip. Our students were, as always, well-spoken and inspiring when it came to explaining why they were there. Patricio said, “I come to YPT because I can be more creative here than anywhere else” and was met with nods of approval. “I come here to get a new perspective on life,” proclaimed Amber, and her sentiments were echoed by Kevin. I think I was as affected by their answers as our visitors were! Already people were getting a better sense of each other. Working with these students all year as the assistant in the Workshop, I see them bursting with creative energy each week, but it was touching to actually get a chance to hear from them about why they keep coming back.

Inspired by the students’ play and this real experience of meeting strangers, the students and visitors wrote monologues about a time when they met a stranger who changed them. This person could have affected their life in some momentous way, or just made them see things differently for a moment.

Workshop students and Chinese theater artists write monologuesMany of our visitors chose that very day as the inspiration for their monologues. With the help of the translators, we heard tales of their experience so far in DC. One man said being here was like a dream and he was waiting to be pinched and awakened. Another credited a specific Workshop student for drawing in the group with her warm smile and kind demeanor, saying she made them feel so welcome and comfortable despite the language barrier. The final monologue tied together the afternoon, with the Chinese visitor speaking movingly about her experience watching the Workshop students write, perform and interact. Throughout the hour and a half, she had learned so much about them, and shared so much of herself. We were strangers. We are not anymore.

See the Young Playwrights’ Workshop’s play on June 11 at GALA Hispanic Theatre!

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 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

Introducing The Twelve Days of YPT!

Ready to be inspired?  Starting today, in honor of the holiday season, YPT will be counting down The Twelve Days of YPT.  But instead of pipers piping  and partridges in pear trees, for the next twelve days, YPT will be profiling one student per day that we’ve had the honor of working with this year.  These are students of all ages and all backgrounds from all over DC.  All have been engaged with YPT’s work in a variety of ways, and all have shared their stories with us about how YPT has impacted their lives. 

And these students are just a small sampling of the 1,200 students we inspire each year with our innovative playwriting and theater arts workshops.

2011 has been an amazing year. We worked with hundreds of creative, enthusiastic and dedicated students and celebrated numerous successes, including a national award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, a bigger-than-ever-before New Play Festival, and special recognition for our resident student ensemble from Josh Groban’s Find Your Light Foundation, WJLA ABC-7 News, WAMU 88.5 and the DC Capital Fringe Festival. 

So, for the next twelve days, we invite you to celebrate with us as we look back on our students and their accomplishments this past year. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for a different face of YPT every day.

And if one of our “Twelve Days of YPT” student stories personally inspires you, we encourage you to make a contribution of any size on that day as an investment in that student. Your personalized thank you from YPT will include a photo of that student and a description of how your gift has made an impact on his or her education.

For the “First Day of YPT” we are profiling Amber Faith Walton. Amber has worked with YPT both through the In-School Playwriting Program at Bell Multicultural High School, and as part of our award-winning after-school ensemble, the Young Playwrights’ Workshop.  Her play, Changing Tides: Judge Me Gently, a moving piece about a conversation between a young gay woman and conservative man, was produced in the 2011 New Play Festival (watch Amber speak about her experience in the New Play Festival  here). Amber also contributed to the Workshop’s original play, Out of the Shadow, which took on the issue of bullying from a student perspective. Amber is a creative, articulate and enthusiastic student who brings an incredible amount of passion and creativity to her work at YPT. She recently wrote an insightful piece for our blog about working with international students from Suchitoto, sharing:

“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 … we are all humans, we love theater, and we perform. Being a student and watching a barrier disintegrate was amazing.” To read her full blog post, click here

If Amber’s story inspires you, we encourage you to donate now in her name.  Invest in Amber, and invest in the future of YPT.

And don’t forget, from now until the New Year, your gift will literally double in size and impact, thanks to a generous matching grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

 As always, thank you so much for your support and generosity this past year.  We would not be where we are today with you!

Amber performs in Out of the Shadow

Alison
Development and Producing Associate