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

Elan Williams

Promising Playwright, January 2020

"You want to do your best, but at the same time, you just write what goes through your head and stop thinking about it."  -Elan

In Fall 2019, YPT Program Associate and Teaching Artist Claudia Rosales Waters facilitated the In-School Playwriting Program in Ms. Polk’s theatre class at Eastern High School in Washington, DC. At the time, Elan Williams, Eastern High School Senior, was rigorously working on his original short play, Lifted. In his play, the protagonist, Ocean, survives an accident that changes his life, and when a hotshot CEO offers to help Ocean cope with the ordeal, his intentions are not as genuine as they seem. Ocean wrestles with his identity as the antagonist CEO is pushing him to be someone he’s not. 

“I was just trying to find a way that [the story] can be relatable to me, personally, and to other people out there,” explains Elan. 

This is not Elan’s first time writing creatively in class, but he had not really thought about writing creatively outside of school until his time at YPT. “It’s definitely possible,” says Elan on taking his writing further. “I like having help from Ms. Polk and Ms. Waters, for sure. And I didn’t really think I could come to this elaborate play that I’m thinking of right now. Now, I can.”

When he’s not writing, Elan runs track after school. As a senior, he’s hoping to continue on to college to study psychology. “I’m more interested in behavior and research. I want to know why people do certain things. I think that’s really interesting.”

But first, he has to complete and present his play. In December 2019, Ms. Polk’s class invited professional actors to read students’ final plays aloud for their peers, and then students offered written feedback and reflections on each of the plays. The process from start to end for Elan was both challenging and fun. “I think that the most challenging part is trying to put things on the stage and the characters and all that stuff, and how they’re supposed to flow and move throughout, on the stage, so it looks good,” says Elan, adding that the reward is “being able to finish a scene and it makes sense.” 

After having successfully completed the In-School Playwriting Program, Elan advised fellow young writers, “Have help. Just don’t overthink things too much. You want to do your best, but at the same time, you just write what goes through your head and stop thinking about it. When I do that...I think about it and try to visually see what I want to happen, and when you do that, you can write it out pretty easily for the most part. Oh, and check back over stuff.”