Past Promising Playwrights
Promising Playwright, April 2019
“Children can do a lot of things that adults can do, so you shouldn’t judge small people.”
Tucker Elementary School 5th-grader Arianna has accomplished a lot in her life so far, and now she is about to write her very first play.
Her play, currently Untitled, is about a teen actress named Arielle who is trying to get the lead role in a play. She must compete with her long-time rival for the chance at the starring role. “They both want this lead role that they’ve been working for all their lives,” explains Arianna, “but there are pros and cons about each actress, so they don’t know who is going to win.”
Arianna’s play came from her love of celebrities and the intrigue of actors’ lifestyles. “I’m very obsessed with a lot of actors and actresses,” says Arianna, “and sometimes I watch their videos on YouTube and stuff where they talk about how they got their lead role, and I thought I could write this kind of thing and make it a play about getting a role in a play.”
She also has acted in plays herself; her first role was the lead character in a school production of James Madison, Little Man, Big Ideas. She also writes poetry and is the 2018 Poet Laureate of Alexandria City Public Schools. Although this is her first play, she says that if all goes well, she’ll definitely want to write more plays.
When she’s not being a star on stage or reciting poetry, Arianna loves to read and is currently reading the Harry Potter series. She also runs track and likes to swim.
Arianna has big plans for the future. “I’m actually thinking about becoming the President of U.S.,” she exclaims. “I feel like politics really influences young children more than we know, and that’s sort of not fair. I want to change that and I want to sort of feel like how it would be if I was running the whole country… with help, of course.”
Arianna says she’s learning a lot with YPT and has advice for other young people who are trying to have their voice heard, “A lot of people say stay true to your dreams, but also try not to cover up any mistakes that you make, because you can learn from them.”
To the world, she says, “Children can do a lot of things that adults can do, so you shouldn’t judge small people.”
Promising Playwright, March 2019
The 6th Graders have worked very hard in the In-School Playwriting Program at Washington School for Girls (WSG) in Southeast, DC. With the help of YPT Teaching Artist Soneka Anderson, stories about friendship, espionage, ghosts and more abounded. Nyeema Lewis’ play was all that she hoped for and more. Nyeema got to see her play performed by professional actors in front of her friends, family and teachers.
Her play, This Ends Now, tells the story about a man named Donald who plans to take away the right to vote for women at all costs. But his daughter, Rosetta, will do anything she can to stop this from happening. Although entirely fictional, her play drew on social issues that are at the forefront today. For Nyeema, getting the play down on paper in YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program was complicated.
“I went through at least two or three different storylines and I started over a couple of times,” explains Nyeema. “There was this one night I just deleted everything from my other story and I started all over and it was just hard.”
In the end, though, Nyeema thought the experience writing a play and sharing it was very rewarding.
“I felt like all my work paid off because everybody was saying that I did a good job,” says Nyeema. “My dad was here and he was saying he’s proud of me.”
At WSG, everyone knows Nyeema is a writer. “Everybody calls me a soon-to-be author,” she beams. She wants to become a published author when she gets older and plans to keep writing as a hobby and see where it takes her.
As for YPT, she encourages young writers to experience the program if and when they can. “It’s a chance for you to get better knowledge about writing and a fun experience that you get to remember throughout your years of life.”
To fellow young writers, she advises, “[G]ive writing a chance because even if you’re not a reader/writer kind of person, just try it. I started out not liking it, but I did it in my perspective and the things that I liked, and I started to like it more.”
Promising Playwright, February 2019
For 5th Grade playwright and Mundo Verde PCS student Kamari, a talent show is all about the drama behind the scenes! In her new play, Top Ten (a working title), a student named Jessica moves from Spain to Paris after she is accepted into one of France’s best universities. And when the college-wide talent show is announced, Jessica signs up but must take on the notorious cheater Maria who has also entered the showcase.
Kamari says that she was inspired to write this play because of her enthusiasm for Mundo Verde’s annual variety show, an event that showcases the talents of the school community.
“Mundo Verde usually hosts a variety show each year, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a play about what goes on in a variety show,” Kamari explains.
This is not Kamari’s first time writing a play. She performed in a play based on Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers a couple of years ago, and last year, wrote her first play with YPT's After-School Playwriting Program.
When not at school, Kamari loves to read, and is an avid fan of graphic novels such as Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. While she doesn’t know yet what she wants to do when she grows up, she knows the sky’s the limit.
About her time with YPT's After-School Playwriting Program so far this year, Kamari says, “I think YPT is really nice because you get to write a play, but you also get to learn how to write a play, and you can also be in a play if you wanted to.”
Promising Playwright, November 2018
“I honestly feel natural in this class out of all my classes because I feel like I get to express myself.”
In Ms. Polk’s theater class at Eastern High School, sophomore student Nevaeh Edwards has a story with a mission of awareness. Her play, titled In the Mind of a Twenty-Year-Old Art Student tackles young adult struggles with mental health through the eyes of its protagonist, 20-year-old Lily Amber. “As someone who’s struggled with mental health in the past, I just thought it would be interesting to write it out and explore the topic,” says Nevaeh.
“[Lily Amber] is a lot. She’s messy, but in a way that’s human,” she explains. “She’s someone that doesn’t want to be helped because she doesn’t know how to seek it.”
Through Lily Amber, Nevaeh explores three major mental health disorders: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety Disorder and Depression. Each is its own personified character that works to tear Lily Amber down, and Lily Amber must fight them and find the will to survive.
This is not Neveah’s first time playwriting or her first time with YPT. She was a student of YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program in the 5th grade at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Southwest. “I write short stories, too,” says Neveah. “And I’m actually working on a short film with my friends.”
Neveah really enjoys YPT in her theater class. “It’s great,” says Neveah. “I honestly feel natural in this class out of all my classes because I feel like I get to express myself.” In fact, Neveah will use what she’s learned to continue writing and other creative pursuits. “I think my goal is to be like a writer or something. Probably like a director; I always wanted to do film.”
In her spare time, Neveah participates in the photography club and the Spirit club, a club that brings LGBTQ+ students together. She also wants to join the creative writing club when it begins.
Her advice to young writers: “Just do it. You might be shy; you might be afraid that your work isn’t good enough, but once you get into it, it’s just—like—no stopping. And it feels so good to have your work played out and just have it appear in front of your eyes in a physical form.”
Promising Playwright, October 2018
“If you really want to write something, just don’t be afraid to write it. You never know if a lot of people will think it is really great.”
In YPT’s After-School Playwriting Program taught by Ms. Fatima, Ainsley is beaming about his play idea. In his play, 90-year-old Granny meets a boxer in the boxing ring. Granny wants to prove that she can fight the boxer, the strongest boxer ever, and win.
“My story will be full of action and it has some funny parts in it,” explains Ainsley. He says he got the idea to write this unique story while he was trading funny stories about grannies with his friends. When tasked with writing a play, he decided to go with this one. The most challenging part of writing this play, however, was choosing his protagonists. He hopes that through the determined granny and the champion boxer, that his play “will be both full of action and have some funny parts.”
He looks forward to what he believes is the best part about writing plays: sharing it with an audience. “When I’m finished, I get to read it to everyone and see everyone liking my play.”
While this is Ainsley’s first time writing a play, it is not his first time writing stories. “Well, I’ve written stories about basketball and I’m writing another one now,” says Ainsley.
Ainsley loves basketball! He plays every day after school with his twin brother Levi, trades basketball cards and watches games when they are playing on TV. He also enjoys studying math facts and playing chess.
After the After-School Playwriting Program, Ainsley says that he enjoys playwriting and wants to continue writing on his own. His advice to young writers: “If you really want to write something, just don’t be afraid to write it. You never know if a lot of people will think it is really great.”
Promising Playwright, September 2018
"While working with YPT...I was made to feel like someone who deserved to have this voice and someone who had something to say."
For young playwright Daniel Goldman, the journey to crafting his play began when he was a freshman at H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, where YPT Teaching Artist Kathleen Akerley led YPT's In-School Playwriting Program in his drama class last year. In January 2018 Daniel’s play, Tunnel Vision, was nominated for YPT's 2018 New Play Festival, and in June 2018, was chosen to be premiered at a staged reading in the 17th Annual Page-to-Stage New Play Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. While he has written poetry and stories before, this was Daniel's first time writing a play.
"I was a bit unsure about it at first," says Daniel. "But the person working with me during the workshop, Kathleen, was very supportive. She helped us build upon our own expectations for the play helped us find the playwright that we already had within ourselves."
Daniel's play, Tunnel Vision, tackles the very serious and often unaddressed issue of domestic sex trafficking through the story of an LGBTQ+ youth. The play centers on Sebastian, who, after being shunned by his family, is coerced into a life of sex trafficking and abuse. Through this powerful story, Daniel's aim was to spread awareness of sex trafficking happening right here in the United States. "I did research on how [sex trafficking] was happing in America. It at first shocked me because my narrative of America, having lived [abroad] in developing countries, was that it was this perfect place. When I finally came to the US, I learned that the same [sexual abuses] happened here as in other parts of the world. It happens here; it happens everywhere."
Daniel says that the process of developing his play, from working with Kathleen to working directly with YPT Artistic Director Farah Lawal Harris, was empowering. "I was afraid, going in, that I would be viewed as a child stepping into the shoes of someone far bigger than myself," explains Daniel. "While working with YPT, I wasn't made to feel like that at all. I was made to feel like someone who deserved to have this voice and someone who had something to say."
Daniel intends to continue working on Tunnel Vision. He received encouraging and helpful feedback from the actors and audience members at the Page-to-Stage Festival to add to his own interest in expanding specific characters and storylines. Beyond playwriting, Daniel wants to pursue arts activism as a career when he gets older. "I want to do anything where I'm using my voice for something important," says Daniel. "I would love to do art; I would love to be able to do activism through art on a larger scale and see where things take me."
His advice for young writers: "Sit down. Start writing, no matter how absolutely crazy it sounds. You can tone it down later. Just take all your ideas, put them down on paper and work with them."
We are incredibly proud of Daniel and all his hard work and dedication. We'll be following Dan as he continues to develop Tunnel Vision and as he makes the world a better place through his art!