Within its purple and yellow beanbag-strewn office overlooking Meridian Hill Park, the small but energetic staff of Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT) has been finalizing plans for its biggest event to date. Said event, known around the office as #20Fest, will be held on Friday, December 12 at Theater J to mark the organization’s 20th anniversary—making it older than any of the thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students it serves throughout the DC area.
I had not heard of YPT’s unique mission and methods before I began volunteering with the organization a couple of months ago. For those similarly unfamiliar, here’s how it works in a nutshell: YPT brings a high-quality arts education into underserved schools (95% of the students it works with attend a school that receives Title I Federal Assistance; 33% speak English as a second language) throughout the District, Maryland, and Virginia.
Students are given a voice by receiving the opportunity to write plays about what matters to them, while also improving their reading and writing skills. On top of all that, they get to work hand-in-hand with professional playwrights, actors, directors, and teaching artists in the classroom and see their words brought to life.
“Young Playwrights’ Theater is the only professional theater in DC dedicated entirely to arts education,” explains Frank Cervarich, YPT’s Deputy Director. “By experiencing their work brought to life for their communities, students realize their ability to affect the world around them.”
dog & pony dc
Faction of Fools
GALA Hispanic Theatre
No Rules Theatre Company
Pinky Swear Productions
Wild Women Theatre
Young Playwrights’ Theater
“Over the course of the evening, we are staging plays that span a wide range of topics: from superheroes to Martians to LGBT rights to gentrification,” Cervarich notes. “This is the first time that other companies will be producing plays written by YPT students, and each play will have it’s own unique and distinct twist based on the company performing it.”
“For me, the most exciting thing about #20Fest is having so many awesome theatre companies volunteering their time to perform plays written by YPT students. It is a testament to the strength of our students’ voices,” says Farah Harris, who’s been a Program Associate at YPT since 2012 and is a co-founder of Wild Women Theatre, which seeks to explore multiple dimensions of black womanhood through storytelling, poetry, movement, and song.
“We’ll be performing Changing Tides: Judge Me Gently by Amber Faith Walton and Society Unjust by Shannon Marshall,” Harris explains. “Both plays were written by black female playwrights and incorporate poetic language—integral parts of every Wild Women Theatre performance.”
The event is free and open to the public, making it accessible for members of all communities and providing an excellent opportunity for DC audiences to discover a new company to love and support—and catch some inspiring early work by the next generation of talented theatre-makers.
#20Fest takes place on Friday, December 12 at 7 p.m. at Theater J, 1529 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC. The performance begins at 7pm – audiences are advised to arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of time. There will be a reception with free hors d’oeuvres beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The show is recommended for ages 14 and older due to some mature content.