Each month, YPT profiles a new Promising Playwright in our electronic newsletter, the Wire.
Promising Playwright, February 2010
"I was excited. I just kept being like ’Oh wow. Wow. Wow. Oh,’" says Kalia Snowden of the moment she learned that her play was chosen to part of YPT’s New Play Festival. "I had a wowzer moment." She says.
Kalia is in the 9th grade at Wilson High School. She lives in Adams Morgan with her grandmother and brother.
Her play 3434 depicts a futuristic world in which science has rendered women and girls unnecessary and illegal. "Usually, I’m the actress not the playwright. I was just thinking about the most snooty role, to the point that there’s no arguing that you’re the star," she explains. "Then I was like, ’What if I was the only girl in the play? What if I was the only girl in the WORLD?’"
Promising Playwright, January 2010
Charlee Mize is the first student you see in the YPT Documentary. She stands confidently next to YPT actor Fatima Quander and invites the audience into the tale:
Fatima - Let us tell you a story!
Charlee - Yes, let’s begin.
"I was amazed when I saw the YPT Documentary," Charlee enthuses. "I was one out of a bunch of students that are playwrights. I felt chosen."
Charlee is in the 5th grade at Key Elementary in Washington DC. This fall she participated in YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program at Fillmore Arts Center. "I wish I could do it again this spring!" she says. "Since it’s not offered, I think I’ll study Shakespeare, sculpture and geometry."
Promising Playwright, December 2009
"My character is like me in some ways. She says funny stuff. She asks random questions," says Karen Ocon, "but then, she’s also straightforward. She speaks her mind. She is direct with her anger."
Karen is speaking of Yuuki, the heroine of The Vampire Prophecy, a play she has written through YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program. Karen enjoys vampires, but is not particularly interested in the Twilight series. She is more inspired by Japanese animation and events from her own life. Her advice to other aspiring playwrights is to "think of the moments in your life that were sad or happy, that give you passion, and try to write something from that."
Promising Playwright, November 2009
"I just write. I don’t think about it. But for some reason, it’s always a hit."
- Nathan Sanders
Nathan Sanders is a senior at Bell Multicultural High school. He is an accomplished debater, and a student in the Young Playwrights’ Workshop, participating in both the acting and playwriting programs. Nathan loves to entertain, and believes his talent will take him far.
"People Magazine and the New York Times are going to get a piece of me," he says with a confident smile. "Even though I’m not 100% sure that I’ll make it as an actor in the movies, I’m 200% sure that I’m going to try."
Promising Playwright, October 2009
"You can be the best, but there’s always someone better."
This line is spoken by both the hero and the villain in De’Vanti Shouff’s play The Other Side of the Mirror
. De’Vanti’s play was selected from among his peers to represent Bell Multicultural High school at the 2009 New Play Festival
. The Other Side of the Mirror
presented a hero’s fall in a noir style.
"I like the old black and white detective films," De’Vanti says. "Sometimes you don’t know who the real protagonist is until you get to the very end."
De’Vanti’s play was similarly mysterious, and he deftly wove the theatrical elements together to heighten the conflict in the final moments, even suggesting that Beethoven’s "Moonlight Sonata" be played. "I thought that song had a sad tone, and I wanted to suggest to the audience that something sad was about to happen," De’Vanti explains.
When his play was presented at the New Play Festival
, "I thought it was awesome," De’Vanti enthuses. "I didn’t think it would come together as well as it did. I was worried about the ending."
Promising Playwright, September 2009
"When I got up to read my part in front of the big audience, I thought I might embarrass myself. But I didn’t. That feels pretty good."
- Daniel Nguyen
This summer Daniel Nguyen participated in the Horizons at Maret program, and worked with his classmates and YPT to create an original play about vampires and soccer. The class then performed a staged reading of their original play A Very Strange Soccer Game for all of the students in the Horizons program.
Promising Playwright, July 2009
"YPT is fun. I consider the staff like my family, because I’ve been here for so long. I feel comfortable."
- Mercedes Gramajo
Mercedes Gramajo has been working with Young Playwrights’ Theater since 2007, first as a student in the In-School Playwriting Program at Bell Multicultural High School, then as a participant in the Young Playwrights’ Workshop for three semesters. She has written original plays, performed her own writing, and served as an actress for other students’ plays as well.
Promising Playwright, June 2009
"I didn’t know that I could stand on a stage and express myself. Now I know that I can, and I want to keep on doing it."
- Heidy Lovo
Heidy spoke these words on Monday June 8th as she stood on the stage at GALA Hispanic Theatre, having just performed an original monologue as part of New Writers Now! Her piece explored miscommunication in an elementary school classroom between a recent immigrant and his schoolteacher. Inspired by John Leguizamo, Heidy transformed a memory from her own past into a hilarious performance, playing multiple roles and speaking in English and Spanish.
She is unafraid to try new and often wacky things, and though she has multiple family obligations and a lot of school work, she makes it a point not to miss her sessions with the Young Playwrights’ Workshop.
Promising Playwright, May 2009
Madison Leathers is a ninth grader at Capital City Public Charter School. She is a member of the Young Playwrights’ Workshop, participating in both the Tuesday acting sessions and the Wednesday playwriting group.
She lives with her mom, dad, and little brother in Northeast DC, in the neighborhood of Woodbridge. She enjoys softball, skateboarding and playing the piano, violin and guitar. She has been playing the acoustic guitar since she was in the 5th grade and plans to use her stipend from the workshop to buy an electric guitar. "I need it for my band Romeo is Dead," she says. The rock group has five members and plays both original songs and cover songs. Madison co-wrote their song Just Walk Away with band member Melissa Paiz.
In a few years Madison hopes to attend either Berkeley or NYU to study writing, music or forensic science.
Promising Playwright, March 2009
"If YPT hadn’t come into my classroom that day, I wouldn’t have this passion to write," Kamilia Epps said as she spoke to the audience after her play For Which It Stands was presented at New Writers Now!
Kamilia wrote her play in 2005, as part of YPT’s In-School playwriting program at Bell Multicultural High School. She is now a college student and contract employee for the Department of Labor and was thrilled to see her work performed by professional actors. "I felt like a god in a sense, just sitting there seeing something that I have created being brought to life," Kamilia says. "Not to mention the actors performed the characters exactly the way I imagined them, or better."
Promising Playwright January 2009
"It’s been very powerful for me to return to YPT after finishing school," says Nicole Jost. "As an artist, I believe it is my responsibility to create opportunities for others to express themselves, especially those that might not already have access to such opportunities. My job allows me to do that."
Nicole Jost has been affiliated with Young Playwrights’ Theater since 2002 when she was a sophomore at Wilson High School. In September of 2007 the YPT Wire profiled her work as a college intern, teaching the summer playwriting class at Bell Multicultural High School. This past fall YPT was thrilled to have Nicole join its team as Program Assistant. She works with associate director Patrick Torres to administer YPT’s programs serving over 500 students throughout DC.
Promising Playwright, December 2008
"I don’t do serious plays," Pete Hall says. "I do comedy because I want to see people smile. There are so many things going on in the world today that make people depressed, so I like to give them something to make them laugh."
Pete is a senior at Bell Multicultural High School and a natural comedian. At last year’s New Play Festival his play Keepin’ Outta Trouble had many laughing to the point of tears. Now, Pete is a member of the Young Playwrights’ Workshop and his latest work Save ’Da Planet Fool! will be featured at Monday’s New Writers Now! Green Growing and Original. In Save ’Da Planet Fool! environmentally-minded gang members take over a TV news station to spread their anti-pollution message.
Promising Playwright, November 2008
NARRATOR: It is the year 2020. Media plays the role of government in the lives of school children. Children are forced to learn through video games, the Internet, and watching aimless hours of TV. However, there are some who want to break away.
NERD 2: Don’t you think it’s time that we start a revolution?
So begins Priscilla Ward’s sci-fi play, Twilight, a meditation on the influence of media on education in America.
"I’d been reading George Orwell’s 1984 and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death and I was inspired to write about how our culture is influenced by the media," Priscilla says. "We’re so influenced by what we see. Sometimes people just take the information in like robots instead of thinking on their own."
Promising Playwright, October 2008
"This is how life works. You don’t always get what you want."
This refrain is repeated by multiple characters in Jorge Hernandez’s play The Last Goodbye. It betrays a world-weariness that is not immediately apparent upon meeting the playwright. Jorge is sunny and hopeful, polite and inquisitive. He is in twelfth grade at Bell Multicultural High School and hopes next year to attend George Washington University or Harvard.
"Some people have told me that it won’t be possible," Jorge says, "but I’m still dreaming." He smiles broadly.
Promising Playwright, September 2008
"Some people think that the fact that they’re young means that nobody will listen," Mayra Rivera says. "Through YPT I learned that people do listen. Just express yourself and don’t care what other people say."
Promising Playwright, August 2008
"I’m dedicated to what I do," Maurice Olden says. "I want to be an actor. I like changing into different characters."
Maurice got his start six years ago with Young Playwrights’ Theater. As a 4th grader, Maurice helped to create and perform Hip Hop Pinocchio working with YPT after school. He remembers fondly their performances at such diverse venues as grocery store grand openings and the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage. "I liked reading my own lines in front of a crowd," Maurice says.
Promising Playwright, June 2008
Julius Johnson will be the first male in his family to go to college. He is humble when asked if he thinks of himself as a role model. "My little brothers can’t wait for me to leave already," he says. "They want my room." Then he adds, "I know they’ll miss me."
This self-deprecating humor is typical for Julius. "I just love to laugh and have fun," he says. "That’s my thing. Separate the balance between fun and work."
Promising Playwright, May 2008
I am the earthquake that quivers the ground
but yet I don’t make a sound.
I am the reflection of the moon and stars
on the sun’s face!
I am the twinkle in the eye of
the less fortunate,
yet with laughter and grace.
And I am the speed of the track star’s run
but never counting my pace.
And I am the rich man’s daughter
but in my mansion there’s no quiet place.
Promising Playwright April 2008
At fourteen, Gerson Blanco is a YPT veteran. His first play, Renny vs. Javier was produced as part of New Writers Now! in 2007. His latest work, The Black Sheep was just featured in the 2008 New Play Festival.
"I thought the Festival would be like the first time," Gerson says, "like just a small place. But then, when I saw how big it was and all the people arrived I got kind of scared. But then, when I got up on stage, I don’t feel nothing. I was confident," Gerson says, smiling broadly. He smiles too as he remembers the actors. "That last guy! He was so funny. His face was so funny," Gerson grins, recalling Cesar Guadamuz’s performance.
Promising Playwright March 2008
"It’s really hard for a person to realize the truly precious things in life as they are living it. Sometimes it is not until you’re about to lose everything, not until that moment when it all becomes clear," says Engedasew Menkir. He is speaking of a key moment from his play Puzzle.
As a student who immigrated from Adis Ababa, Ethiopia only three years ago Enge has had the opportunity to consider what really matters from multiple perspectives. He is currently a student in the 11th grade at Bell Multicultural High School.
Promising Playwright February 2008
Sophie Reveal’s ideas flow faster than her words. She is bursting with creative energy and trips over herself to get the words out fast enough. She examines each idea from all perspectives, telling the story over again to make sure she said it the right way.
In her play A Chocolate Covered Adventure the miniature candies who make up her cast of characters are similarly snappy with their repartee:
DARK CHOCOLATE: Curses! Foiled again. Get it? Foiled? We’re candies...wrapped in foil? I crack myself up.
Sophie cracks herself up regularly.
Promising Playwright January 2008
"You can be friends with anyone, no matter who you are."
This is the moral of Jane Stirling’s play, The True Power of Friendship. A third grader at Key Elementary, Jane has been working with Young Playwrights’ Theater as part of her arts programming at Fillmore Arts Center.
Her play will be featured at this month’s New Writer’s Now! on January 28th. When her parents heard her play had been chosen to be featured at our event, her mother wrote, "We’re so happy to see that her abilities are finally catching up with her imagination."
Eronmwon Oviasogie and Diamond Miales
Promising Playwrights December 2007
"You may shoot me with your words. You may cut me with your eyes. You may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise."
- Maya Angelou
Sitting in the front row as their play is performed, Elmo and Diamond cannot help but join in and speak the rhythmic pulsing words along with the performers. They giggle and tap each other on the shoulder at key moments.
Eronmwom "Elmo" Oviasogie and Diamond Miales are the honored guests of YPT’s November edition of the staged reading series, New Writers Now! Working with a group of seven other girls in YPT’s After-school program at Kelly Miller Middle School in the Spring of 2007, Diamond and Elmo created I Rise. Their play was based on Maya Angelou’s poem "Still I Rise." Now Diamond and Elmo sit in the front row of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre and watch as professional actors enact the roles.
Promising Playwright November 2007
"I could write a sitcom," 11-year-old Ayrricka Street says with characteristic easy confidence. "I was watching That’s So Raven and I thought I could do that." And so she did.
Ayrricka has filled a notebook with original episodes of a show she’s calling The Jacksons, loosely based on the famous family of Michael and the Jackson 5.
Promising Playwright October 2007
Destiny Jackson wants to be the first African American woman president of the United States of America.
If this 11-year-old does eventually assume the highest office in our land, she may feel right at home in the White House. Last year, with YPT, Destiny took a private tour of our nation’s first home guided by the head curator of the White House Historical Association.
"We met Barney, the White House dog, " Destiny remembers, "and we got to see all the different rooms. The place was huge. Colossal. You could get lost there!"
Promising Playwright September 2007
Nicole Jost writes strong female characters who advocate fiercely for their rights and desires.
The power of her voice first became apparent to YPT in 2002 when she wrote The Fear and The Pope as a sophomore in the In-School Playwriting Program at Wilson High School. That play featured the exploits of two criminal masterminds as they balanced the promise of love against the possibility of a life of wealth and power.
Promising Playwright August 2007
"I can achieve any goal I set my mind to. Yes, I can. I know I can."
Berta Gonzalez wrote this line for the character Javier in her play Learning to Say Goodbye. Javier uses these words to summon his strength and confidence as he leaves his family for the first time to go to college far from home.
It is with equal courage and assurance that Berta prepares to make her own journey to Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida this fall. Although she is not the first child in her family to go to college, she is the first to leave home to attend school and she anticipates that the change will be a challenging one.
Promising Playwright July 2007
"Man, you don’t even write no more," Aaron Boose’s friend said to him on the day he was suspended from Wilson Senior High School back in 2002. His friend’s words were a sharp indictment. Aaron had always written poetry and, in 2001, through work with YPT, he had become a playwright. His play, From Da Bricks to Wall Street, co-written with classmate Johnny Burton was performed at Woolly Mammoth in the fall of 2002 as part of the New Play Festival.
"It was so good because I had my family there. Everybody loved it. We met the actors before that. It was so good," Aaron remembers. "Before YPT, I never thought of writing that way. I never thought I could write anything that maybe children would watch actors perform out in the schools."
Promising Playwright June 2007
In 1999, YPT made a big impression on Cecelia Jenkins. She was a shy 6th Grader at Hardy Middle School when she started the After-School Playwriting Program at Fillmore Arts Center with Karen Zacarias. Cecelia says of her first impression of Karen, "She was very very nice and she was easy to talk to. With writing, if someone is that way, it’s so much easier. Anything you write is personal so if someone is nice and respects you it makes it a whole lot easier."
Cecelia’s play Friendship: The Wonka Wonka Cool Girls Club was selected to be part of the 1999 Tour, and was performed city wide. Cecelia recalls the day when the play came to her school. "Everybody loved the play. They were laughing and couldn’t believe it was me who wrote it because I was a little shy girl. The whole school liked it," she remembers.
Promising Playwright May 2007
Sheralyn Saunders is the picture of confidence and creativity. Her play, Say Goodbye, was featured on March 26th at New Writers Now. At Busboys and Poets after the show, she is all light and energy, flashing hands and bright smiles. Yet, as a dramatist, she’s not afraid to work in darker tones.
"Don’t be afraid to be different when you write. You can’t go wrong. It’s self expression. It’s you and the pen. You can bring anything to life," Sheralyn says.
Promising Playwright April 2007
In his play, Who’s the Big Bad Wolf? Christian Blanco takes an all-too typical domestic abuse situation and raises the stakes to fantastical new heights. The protagonist, Brian, watches in terror as his stepfather transforms into a werewolf, complete with claws and teeth. The violence he experiences in his home drives Brian to find a creative outlet.
Promising Playwright March 2007
(Rubble-strewn streets. Six soldiers are cautiously moving through the debris, guns raised. Explosions can be heard in the background. A block of cinder falls off a building and slams into the ground next to one of the soldiers.)
This is how Kyle Sumner’s play Impasse begins. A tale of friendship and war in Iraq, it is exceptional not only for its emotional candor and depth but also for the specific detail with which Kyle vividly renders the world of his play.
Promising Playwright February 2007
Beneath her quiet, composed exterior, Lyndsey Newsome’s mind is busy churning out detailed scenes of unexpected comedy. “I’ve never been the type of girl to fit in. A lot of the kids at school bore me, so I just go into la la land and make stuff up.”
Promising Playwright January 2007
Irene Wu is a young woman of strong opinions and great ambition. Like the determined protagonist of her play, All’s Fair in Love and War, who’d rather live the life of a dashing knight than a cloistered princess, Irene will not be underestimated.
Josie Guevara Torres
Promising Playwright December 2006
Josie Guevara Torres is an 8th grader at Capitol City Public Charter School. Her play Trouble Quinceañera was featured in November 2006’s New Writers Now! "I was nervous at first but then when I saw the play it actually made me feel better," Josie said.
Trouble Quinceañera is the story of a latina girl, Cindy, on the eve of her 15th birthday. Cindy hopes to have a big, traditional celebration for her "quince" but has to face the sad reality of her father’s unemployment. In the end, her friend Alejandro finds a way to make Cindy’s 15th birthday truly special.
Promising Playwright November 2006
Kyrtham Franco is a sixth grader at Capitol City Public Charter School and the author of Magnet Dude, featured in the Fall 2006 Express Tour.
In Magnet Dude, the title character faces the trials and tribulations of life as a super hero. Kyrtham’s comedy was inspired by his love of cartoons. He advises other aspiring writers "Just plan and write all your ideas down. Then do a final one and present it in front of an audience so they can critique it."
Promising Playwright October 2006
Fernando Romero graduated in May 2006 from Antioch College with a major in theatre. His life as an actor is one he could have little imagined as a young boy growing up in a mountain village without water or electricity in El Salvador.
The transition from his childhood in El Salvador to his adolescence in Washington was the topic of a play My Story Fernando wrote with YPT. Fernando first became acquainted with YPT while he was a student at Bell Multicultural High School. After graduation, YPT offered Fernando a job, first as a receptionist and then as a Program Coordinator from 1999-2002. Founder Karen Zacarias gave him his first acting job with YPT’s Express Tour.