For two decades, DC’s own Young Playwrights’ Theater has fostered the minds of budding young writers by helping them discover their own theatrical visions.
Audiences can view some of this exceptional artistic talent when YPT presents its 2015 New Play Festival from April 20-22 at GALA Hispanic Theatre, showcasing the work of 15 student playwrights from public and public charter schools in the DC area.
“It is our biggest performance of the year; a big celebration across three nights, showing all students’ work created in our in-school playwriting program,” says Brigitte Pribnow Moore, YPT’s executive director. “We work with around 2,000 students every year and 15 are selected for the production.”
YPT New Play Festival
April 20 – 22
GALA Hispanic Theatre
3333 14th Street, NW
Tickets are free
During the school year, students write hundreds of plays and all are considered for the festival. Students from 8-18 are represented in this year’s performance, with each night of the festival representing a different school-age group—elementary, middle school and high school.
“It’s an incredibly competitive process,” says YPT’s artistic director Nicole Jost, who herself was once a student and presenter at the New Play Festival. “Teaching artists read all the plays and nominate up to 2 per class. The 60 to 70 semifinalists are then read by the reading committee—staff members, artists in the community and former students.”
From that pool, a group of 36 finalists are chosen, and those three-dozen plays are all published in a book. The committee then decides on the 15 that will be featured for the festival.
“It’s a 3-month, very intense process as students work with professional dramatists, develop new drafts of the play, attend the first read through and rehearsal, and are expected to give notes to the actors and directors,” Moore says. “Everyone aside from the student writers are adults; these are all DC working professional actors, directors and stage managers, many who you would recognize from other productions around the area.”
This year’s play selection covers many diverse themes. While elementary students often write about super heroes with lots of action (and there are a couple of those this year), one younger writer wrote about a boy’s decision to enter the Army. Middle school plays tend to be introspective, while the high school students normally write about social themes. This year, one play follows a young man whose father was incarcerated and looks at the affects the criminal system has on families.
“For any playwright, seeing work come to life is incredible and it’s only magnified for a young person,” Moore says. “These are kids who were brave enough and vulnerable enough to share their ideas and these professional adults are taking them seriously and treating them with respect.”
Jost remembers the thrill of seeing her work on stage for the first time and hopes that all students involved will share that feeling.
“I thought it was just amazing,” she says. “I remember being really excited that I could write about anything that I wanted, and students today often mention that. It was something that gave me motivation and empowered me like never before.”
The event is free. For more information, visit youngplaywrightstheater.org.
“If you ever wondered what was going on in the head of a 15-year-old, this is the way to find out,” Moore says. “This is a celebration of the young people who live in the neighborhood who have interesting and important stories to tell.”