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

Nora Spellane

Amazing Alumna, February 2016


“It’s your story, and don’t give up telling it until it’s heard.

Nora Spellane knows the power of a good story. The second-semester senior at Macalester College in Minnesota has been telling—and listening to—stories since she was a young girl growing up in DC.

“The theater bug had [already] bitten me,” she says, when YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program came to her ninth grade theater class at Wilson High School. “I loved having the opportunity to tell a story, and I really loved the opportunity of learning other people’s stories. I think that [YPT] is especially unique, [in] that they empower people to tell stories.”

The importance of hearing and comprehending other people’s stories inspired Nora to write The Elevator, a stirring play about a white man and an Arab man stuck on an elevator in post-9/11 America. “9/11 was one of the formative experiences of my life,” she recalls. “Even as a young person, I was very conscious of rising Islamophobia, and the fear that was created in the face of difference and not understanding,” she recalls.

The Elevator, which YPT produced in the 2009 New Play Festival, concludes that that fear stems largely from “ignorance, and from the pain of loss.” In revising the play, however, Nora was forced to confront another important truth: her white character, George, has real and recognizable motivations, too. “It’s important to have understanding, but the understanding goes both ways—the listening to stories goes both ways,” she says.  

Having seen her story brought to life onstage, Nora knew that her path was set. She applied to college to study theater, and ultimately chose Macalester for its unique blend of theater practice and liberal arts theory. Working “behind the table” with the New Play Festival actors “influenced…my path ultimately, as a director and a producer and a playwright.” Now completing her capstone project—a paper on the intersection of theater and myth, and a devised work based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice—Nora plans to return to DC after college and work in theater! “I’m trying to find ways to give back to the community that nurtured me,” she says.

You’ve given so much already, Nora – we can’t wait to see what else you have to offer!