Young Playwrights' Theater inspires young
people to realize the power of their own voices.


Brigitte Winter
Executive Director

Brigitte Winter has a decade of experience in nonprofit management, arts administration, fundraising and strategic communications in the DC region. Prior to joining YPT, Brigitte worked as a Legislative Director in Annapolis, and served as the Artistic Director of The Unmentionable Theatre, a Baltimore-based company dedicated to producing new plays with social and political weight. Brigitte holds a BFA in Theatre from UMBC, summa cum laude, a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University and a Masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University. She continues to work with the Georgetown Center for Social Impact Communication as an Advisor for Georgetown’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications Capstone course, mentoring cohorts of graduate students as they develop strategic communications plans for clients throughout the world. Brigitte is the proud recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award from the UMBC Alumni Association, the 2013 Outstanding Student Award from Georgetown University and the 2012 Georgetown Social Impact Award for her commitment to creating positive social change as a communicator. Brigitte’s short fiction is featured in Columbia Writers’ 2014 Trapped Tales anthology and a collection of fantastical stories set in Portland, Oregon scheduled for release by Forest Avenue Press in the fall of 2016. Her micro fiction has been published in 101FictionNail Polish Stories, and Alban Lake Publishing’s November 2014 Drabble Harvest journal, Tourism on Other Worlds. In her spare time, she reads and writes obsessively and bakes a lot of cakes. All of her celebrity crushes are on authors.

Karen Zacarías
Founding Artistic Director

In the 2007-2008 season, Karen had three world premieres: The Book Club Play at Round House Theater (also selected for the 2007 Eugene O’Neill conference and developed with PWC), Chasing George Washington: A White House Adventure at the Kennedy Center, and Looking for Roberto Clemente at Imagination Stage (with music by Debbie Wicks La Puma). Karen is the winner of the 2006 Francesca Primus Award for her play, Mariela in the Desert (World Premiere at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago). Mariela is also the winner the 2005 TCG/AT&T First Stages Award, the 2004 National Latino Playwrights’ Competition, finalist for the 2004 Susan Smith Blackburn prize, and short listed for 2005 Kesselring Prize. Her play, The Sins of Sor Juana won Outstanding New Play at the 2000 Helen Hayes Awards and has been produced throughout the country. Her musical plays for young people have enjoyed productions at The Goodman Theater, The Coterie, Chicago PlayWorks, The Alliance Theatre, Imagination Stage, Arden Theater, Cleveland Playhouse, and St. Louis Rep. The plays include Einstein is a Dummy (world Premiere at the Alliance Theatre), a flamenco version of FERDINAND: THE BULL, the mariachi-inspired The Magical Piñata, and salsa/hip-hop Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans:A Salsa Musical. Currently, Karen is working on commissions from Arena Stage (Emilie and Voltaire...Were Here), Round House Theater (an adaptation of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents), the Kennedy Center, and South Coast Repertory. Karen Z lives in D.C. with her husband Rett, and children Nico, Kati, and baby Maia.

Farah Harris
Artistic Director

Farah Harris is an actress, director, poet and proud recipient of a 2015 Artist Fellowship Program grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Prior to joining YPT, Farah worked as a Grants Specialist on a government contract, as well as a Development Manager for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Capital Chapter. She holds three Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Maryland-College Park in Theatre Performance, Criminology & Criminal Justice, and African American Studies and graduated with High Honors. Farah was a Founding Member of the Washington, DC-based theatre company, The Saartjie Project and has performed (under the name Farah Lawal) with various companies including dog & pony dc, The Source Festival, 500 Clown and the Inkwell. She performed her one-woman show, So Do You Love Me Yet? in the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival and continues to devise theatre based on the black woman's experience with her company, Wild Women Theatre. For more information, please visit

Thembi Duncan
Creative Programs Director

Thembi Duncan is an arts administrator, playwright, teaching artist, director, dramaturge and actor who began her artistic career in Washington, D.C. in 1999. Prior to joining YPT, she served as Producing Artistic Director of African Continuum Theatre Company and Lead Teaching Artist at Ford’s Theatre. Holding a B.A. in Theatre, summa cum laude, from the University of Maryland, Thembi is a founding member of Galvanize D.C. and a co-founder of the Annual Black Theatre Symposium at the University of Maryland. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and serves on the TheatreWashington Helen Hayes Awards Board of Governors. As a playwright, she participated in the 2013-2014 Mead Theatre Lab Program and currently serves the program as a mentor to emerging artists. Performance, playwright, and directing experiences include African Continuum Theatre Company, The Kennedy Center, Studio Theatre, Theatre Alliance, Rorschach Theatre, Round House Theatre, and many others. She is passionate about theatre, youth development and social justice, all of which intersect in her work at YPT. 

Frank Cervarich
Deputy Director

Frank is an arts administrator with experience in development, communications and office management, as well as an actor, puppeteer, improviser, playwright and teacher. From 2011 to 2012, he served in a kindergarten classroom at Malcolm X Elementary School in Southeast DC through City Year, an AmeriCorps program, providing mentorship and tutoring to his students. After completing City Year, he served as a Research/Program Associate at the Migrant Legal Action Program. He is a founding member of Pointless Theatre, and currently serves as Pointless’ co-Director of Communications. He has written two plays (The Solar System Show and Imagination Meltdown Adventure) that have been produced, and has toured DC with The Solar System Show. Imagination Meltdown Adventure won the Director’s Pick of the Fringe Award in 2012. He has performed at the National Theater, Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, the Mansion at Strathmore, The Puppet Co., the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, The Writer’s Center, GALA Hispanic Theatre and in the Capital Fringe Festival. He is a graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park with a BA in English and Theater. 

Jessica Wisser
Development Director

Prior to joining YPT, Jessica was employed as Executive Director of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra in Alexandria, VA. In her time as the administrative leader of the ASO, Wisser oversaw the organization’s launch of Northern Virginia’s first El Sistema-inspired music education program, ASO Sympatico, as well as the organization’s celebratory performance of the 100th Anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with a one-night only performance at the National Gallery of Art Modern Art Wing, featuring new choreography and performance by Bowen McCauley Dance.

Previously, Wisser worked as General Manager at Cantata Singers, a choral organization in Boston, Massachusetts that administered Classroom Cantatas, a residency program in a diverse spread of Boston Public Schools where students create their own musical compositions based in curricular guidelines. Wisser also completed an administrative internship with the Wolf Trap Opera Company in Vienna, Virginia.

Jessica graduated with a B.A. from Duke University, focusing on a double major in Music and Public Policy. While at Duke, Jessica sang with the Duke University Chorale as well as with Duke University’s oldest all-female a cappella group, Duke Out of the Blue. An arts lover from a young age, Jessica began her music career as a pianist, debuted on the local musical theater stage as Fish #2 in The Little Mermaid, and studied voice and music theory during high school at the Fine Arts Center in her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. Jessica currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband, Evan, her daughter, Claire, and her dog, Jefferson.


Jared Shamberger
Program Director


Jared is a DC-based playwright/director/actor. In 2014, he wrote and performed his first one man show, 12, featuring several solo pieces he created as a founding member of Brave Soul Collective. Jared is most proud of his work in HIV prevention, including his travels throughout the country using theater to educate students on the importance of sexual health and responsibility. He considers himself an "artivist," combining his artistic sensibilities and his activist spirit.




Teshonne Powell
Communications Associate

Hailing from Providence, RI by way of Atlanta, GA, Teshonne has always indulged her love for the performing arts. As a graduate of Duke University, she went on to work with youth through Teach For America and Festival Ballet Providence and has been a proud supporter and participant in community-oriented theatre through her time with Mixed Magic Theatre in Pawtucket, RI. Since obtaining her Master of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies from Howard University, Teshonne has cultivated her love for DC arts while working with Atlas Performance Arts Center on H Street NE. She has also worked with FRESHH Theatre Inc. as an actor, and as the coordinator for its out-of-school-time arts education program, Griot Girls. She enjoys reading and writing speculative fiction, performing in the arts, and supporting her friends--all wonderful and talented members of the DC arts community.

Laura Wood
Development Associate

Laura Wood has worked at YPT since the summer of 2012, as an intern, fellow, and now the Community Engagement Associate. She also works as an Assistant House Manager at Lisner Auditorium and a freelance stage manager. Previously, she interned at Yabonga, an HIV/AIDS outreach organization in Cape Town, South Africa, and in the Special Events department of the Washington National Opera. She was also a 2013 Young People For fellow with the People for the American Way Foundation.  Laura majored in Human Services with minors in Theater and Psychology, and served on the board of her student theater company for three years. She graduated with Special Honors in 2013 from George Washington University, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa. 

Monica Johnson
Administrative Assistant
Monica Johnson is a graduate from Howard University with a B.A in Spanish and a current student at George Washington University. She has been studying Spanish since middle school and has studied abroad three times. Prior to joining YPT, Monica has worked in academic settings as a Spanish Tutor/Teacher Assistant at the Middle School of Mathematics and Science in Washington D.C and as an English Tutor at a grade school in Salamanca, Spain. In addition, she interned at The National Society for Collegiate Scholars, a non-profit organization. Monica enjoys going to art museums, music festivals and food festivals during her spare time. She played the bassoon for four years and was selected to play second chair in the 2010 Cobb County GMEA Band Performance.