Young Playwrights' Theater inspires young
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Nanichi Vargas
Promising Playwright, February 2015

“I want to do everything.”

Nanichi Vargas writes with the style of a ballerina and the substance of a schoolteacher. The eighth grader at Lincoln Multicultural Middle School, whose play will be featured in our 2015 New Play Festival, approaches her work thoughtfully but leaves room for inspiration to strike.

“When YPT first came to [Lincoln],” Nanichi explains, “they gave all the students pictures to write a monologue.” The picture was only supposed to be used for one activity, but Nanichi “decided to use that picture to write the whole play.”

The result is Mrs. Chang, a clever and intriguing play about an elderly Asian woman who travels back in time to “relive some of her young days.” While the photograph inspired the character, Nanichi says that the idea for time travel “just came to [her]” and prompted her to flesh the story out into a full play.

Nanichi is now revising Mrs. Chang with a professional dramaturg - YPT Artistic Director Nicole Jost - and has embraced the process thoroughly. With Nicole’s help, she is solidifying how exactly time travel functions in her play and how she can make it “really dramatic.” 

On top of that, Nanichi has been doing deep research into Mrs. Chang’s time travel destination: New York City Chinatown in the 1960s. Though she of course never visited that neighborhood then, Nanichi has a strong vision for what she wants it to look like. “Kids running around with firecrackers, and the lights and the outfits and the music … I want to be able to make that come to life onstage.”

When Nanichi is not bringing bygone eras to life, she is paving the way for her own future as a professional dancer and dance instructor. Already eight years into her training at the Washington Ballet, Nanichi plans to move to New York for college – possibly studying at the Dance Theatre of Harlem – and then to return to DC and teach.

That kind of creative ambition, that fruitful combination of structure and freedom, is what Nanichi seems to love most about YPT, too. “I like that ... I could write about anything,” she says. “[YPT] is a great way to express yourself through writing, and it gives you knowledge on how to write a play.”

We can’t wait to see Nanichi’s vision realized on the stage on Night Two of the 2015 New Play Festival – Tuesday, April 21, at 8pm at GALA Hispanic Theatre. Mark your calendars and find out how Mrs. Chang's time travels end!