Established in 1995 by award-winning playwright and DC resident Karen Zacarías, Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT) believes that young people are inherently brilliant and we exist to share that brilliance with the world. Because everyone deserves high-quality theater education that centers their voices, YPT provides inspiration, tools, and opportunities for young and emerging artists to develop and share their stories. We prioritize young people who are targeted by systems of oppression, and we also collaborate with people of all ages who are invested in the ways that theater can transform lives and communities. We administer customized, responsive educational programs, playwright-centered, process-focused productions, and other opportunities for youth and adults to develop creatively, personally, and professionally. Across all of our work, we center young people and their agency and adhere to our core organizational values of anti-oppression and antiracism to create an arts-enriched world in which marginalized perspectives are valued and heard.
This year marked our return to fully in-person programming, and we are excited to have reached over 500 students and 600 audience members in the DC area with our programs and productions! We partnered with 32 sites - most of them public, public charter, and private schools - to provide innovative and exciting playwriting classes over the course of the year; all YPT classes result in the creation and performance of original student work by professional actors. Here are some special highlights from the year:
Through Young Playwrights in Progress (YPIP), our mentorship program, playwright Elizabeth Shannon completed a one-year residency with YPT Artistic Director Farah Lawal Harris to transform her one-act play Mama Bushwick is Dead into a full-length piece.
Our year-long after-school program, Students Advocating for the Eradication of Racism (SAFER), culminated in a live showcase in May with original arts activism pieces exploring the theme of what it means to build safe spaces for young people.
We had a successful launch of a new collaborative program with DC Arts Education Alliance, the Arts Institute for Creative Advancement (AICA). This community-led initiative brought together DC-based arts education providers to engage 20 youth ages 16-24 who were disconnected or disengaged from school and work as a result of recovering from the setbacks presented by the pandemic.
We are proud to be the only professional theater in our region focused exclusively on professionally producing works written by young people. Recognizing that art is inherently powerful, YPT equips young people to realize and use the power of their own stories in ways that positively transform them, their audience, and their community.
In FY24, we will continue our mission to inspire young people to realize the power of their voices, highlighting the discussion about Bodily Autonomy as our first annual season theme. Bodily Autonomy has come under attack in many places for many people, and we know it will be important for young people to express their feelings and concerns about what’s happening around them. You will see these themes woven into many of our programs, productions, and events throughout the year.
During FY23, YPT completed an extensive strategic planning process. We are using the findings from that process to guide our next three years of growth and development!
One focus of growth for YPT is to expand the accessibility of all our performances and educational content through a new Virtual Theater on our website. We are all very excited to launch this initiative and will be livestreaming all of our public performances in the next year, providing educational opportunities for everyone to access, and hosting all manners of other activities and virtual happenings.
Education Director Jared Shamberger and the YPT Programs Team are also in the process of establishing YPT’s new Playspiration Festival. This festival will allow students to give and receive feedback with students at other schools and to perform their original plays for their peers. We are hoping this exciting event will incentivize participation, build connections and mutual support among partner schools, and provide an opportunity for celebration and affirmation of all participants.
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