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

Shawn Lee

Promising Playwright, March 2012

While reading the hilarious and inventive playFrozen Cactus by Shawn Lee, you would never guess that the playwright doesn’t really consider himself a writer. Between basketball and soccer, drawing and dancing, Shawn never really had the time-or, he admits, the patience-to write. But when he joined YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program at Ballou High School halfway through last semester, he found the inspiration to write, and the patience soon followed. Frozen Cactus was selected as one of 12 out of over 700 plays to be produced in YPT’s New Play Festival this spring.

"Seeing how successful my play has been really got me more interested in writing," Shawn remarks. "Before, I never thought I could do it."


Frozen Cactus features a young New Mexico resident named Kenny who wants nothing more than for it to snow. He gets into a confrontation with Mother Nature herself over what he deems unacceptable weather in his state, and the play is still just getting started when The Creator shows up to give his opinion on the matter.


Shawn came up with the idea while thinking back on his time living in Texas. After he moved to DC, he heard from friends there that, shockingly, it had snowed. This unexpected event inspired Shawn, and he used his play to explore this meteorological irregularity from a unique and humorous perspective.


Despite the fact that he didn’t have much writing experience prior to YPT, Shawn has enjoyed not only writing his play, but gaining a deeper understanding of his characters by working with a professional teaching artist to prepare his play for the Festival. "I love the whole process of editing the play, and finding out what it’s really about," he says. 


When Frozen Cactus is presented to the public at GALA Hispanic Theater on April 23, Shawn hopes that the audience will learn a lesson from his characters. "Don’t discriminate against others just because you have more authority than they do." And, he adds with a smile, "I want the audience to know that a studenta freshman in high schoolwrote it!"

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