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

Brianna Shaffer

Promising Playwright, December 2017

“I think [YPT] is a really good program, and I learned a lot about how to break down a play and how to research historical people that had lived in Washington DC.”

For 11th Grader Brianna Shaffer, the subject of her upcoming play is more than a person, rather, she is a representation of perseverance and achievement in Washington, DC.

The students at the SEED School of Washington, DC are merging their History and English studies through DCPS’ Tales from the Crypt project. Students research a person who lived in Washington, DC and write a play about their life. Brianna is creating a play about native Washingtonian, Sarah Nutter!

“[The project] is interesting because she really lived,” says Brianna. “It taught me not just about her, but the history of Black women in DC. [Sarah] lived in my neighborhood, so I’m learning about Dunbar, too.”

Brianna explained that Sarah Nutter lived around the turn of the century and attended Howard University, where she also helped found the first historically Black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. After graduation, she became a teacher at Dunbar High School and also taught in Baltimore, but soon got married and stopped teaching. She had no children with her husband, Thomas Nutter.

While Brianna plans to use these facts and real events to craft the plot of her play, she explained that she’ll use her imagination to make inferences about the most intimate parts of Sarah Nutter’s life. “We do have to fill in the gaps,” says Brianna. “Like, when she got married, she had to stop working, so I thought, what if her husband had something to do with it? Maybe he wanted her to stay at home and become a housewife. So my play will be about her reflecting on her life and her achievements compared to her life as a married woman and how that life change affected her.”

This will be Brianna’s first play, but she’s written poems before and has a love for reading and watching plays. The SEED School has many opportunities to see student productions on stage. In her spare time, Brianna takes it easy by hanging out with friends and family and writing. Since her freshman year at SEED, she has participated in BUILD, an entrepreneurship program that teaches young people how to start their own businesses. Brianna’s business sells headphone organizers for those times when our headphone cords get tangled, or we need to pack our headphones away without damaging them.

Brianna loves the idea of entrepreneurship, but also hopes to study medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. “I wanted to be a businesswoman, but now, I am a businesswoman, and I want to expand that in the future while studying medicine.”

So far, Brianna really enjoys the Tales from the Crypt project with YPT. “I think it’s a really good program, and I learned a lot about how to break down a play and how to research historical people that had lived in Washington DC.”

We can’t wait to see the final product of Brianna’s play, which will be performed early this Spring at SEED.