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


Our Team


Brigitte Winter

Executive Director

Brigitte Winter (she/her/hers) has more than a decade of experience in nonprofit management, arts administration, fundraising and strategic communications in the DC region. Prior to joining YPT, Brigitte worked as a Legislative Director in Annapolis, and served as Artistic Director of The Unmentionable Theatre, a Baltimore-based company dedicated to producing new plays with social and political weight. Brigitte holds a BFA in Theatre from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC,) summa cum laude, a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University and a Masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University. She continues to work with Georgetown as an Adjunct Instructor. Brigitte is the proud recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award from the UMBC Alumni Association, the 2013 Outstanding Student Award from Georgetown University and the 2012 Georgetown Social Impact Award for her commitment to creating positive social change as a communicator.

In 2014, Brigitte and her husband, Dustin Blottenberger, co-founded No Discipline Arts Collective, an artist-led initiative committed to producing cross-disciplinary work that breaks down traditional boundaries between isolated artists and disciplines. Since August 2014, No Discipline has presented seven pop-up art events featuring more than 60 artists and writers and benefiting causes including the ALS Foundation, the Kristin Rita Strouse Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Young Playwrights' Theater, Columbia Writers, Shirley’s Boxer Rescue and House of Ruth Maryland.

Brigitte is also an author with short fiction featured in the bestselling 2016 City of Weird: 30 Otherworldly Portland Tales anthology by Forest Avenue Press, the 2017 Enter the Apocalypse anthology by TANSTAAFL Press, the 2017 Renewal Anthology by Queer Sci Fi and Columbia Writers’ 2014 anthology, Trapped Tales.

Karen Zacarías

Founding Artistic Director

In the 2007-2008 season, Karen had three world premieres: The Book Club Play at Round House Theater (also selected for the 2007 Eugene O’Neill conference and developed with PWC), Chasing George Washington: A White House Adventure at the Kennedy Center, and Looking for Roberto Clemente at Imagination Stage (with music by Debbie Wicks La Puma). Karen is the winner of the 2006 Francesca Primus Award for her play, Mariela in the Desert (World Premiere at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago). Mariela is also the winner the 2005 TCG/AT&T First Stages Award, the 2004 National Latino Playwrights’ Competition, finalist for the 2004 Susan Smith Blackburn prize, and short listed for 2005 Kesselring Prize. Her play, The Sins of Sor Juana won Outstanding New Play at the 2000 Helen Hayes Awards and has been produced throughout the country. Her musical plays for young people have enjoyed productions at The Goodman Theater, The Coterie, Chicago PlayWorks, The Alliance Theatre, Imagination Stage, Arden Theater, Cleveland Playhouse, and St. Louis Rep. The plays include Einstein is a Dummy (world Premiere at the Alliance Theatre), a flamenco version of FERDINAND: THE BULL, the mariachi-inspired The Magical Piñata, and salsa/hip-hop Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans:A Salsa Musical. Currently, Karen is working on commissions from Arena Stage (Emilie and Voltaire...Were Here), Round House Theater (an adaptation of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents), the Kennedy Center, and South Coast Repertory. Karen Z lives in D.C. with her husband Rett, and children Nico, Kati, and baby Maia.

Farah Lawal Harris

Artistic Director

Farah Lawal Harris (she/her/hers) is a first-generation Nigerian playwright, actress, director, and member of the DC-based playwrights’ collective The Welders. She deeply believes in the power of black women and their stories and aims to make people feel less alone through her art, which is her activism. Farah co-founded Washington, DC-based theatre companies, The Saartjie Project and Wild Women Theatre, and is a three-time individual artist grant recipient from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Farah created YPT’s acclaimed Silence is Violence social justice performance series and shifted the organization in a new direction by producing high-quality, multi-performance runs of full-length plays written by DC-area young people. 

Before joining YPT, Farah worked as a Grants Specialist on a government contract and a Development Manager for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Capital Chapter. She holds three Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Maryland-College Park in Theatre Performance, Criminology & Criminal Justice, and African American Studies and graduated with High Honors. In summer 2018, her one-act play, America’s Wives, was produced by Capital Fringe in their inaugural Writing Refreshed series. Farah’s plays have been produced in the Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage Festival (FRESHH Inc. and The Welders), Theater Alliance’s Hothouse New Play Development Series, Convergence Theatre, the Capital Fringe Festival, and the DC Black Theatre Festival

Farah currently resides in Maryland with her husband and son. For more information, please visit



Jessica Wisser

Development Director

Prior to joining YPT, Jessica (she/her/hers) was employed as Executive Director of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra in Alexandria, VA. In her time as the administrative leader of the ASO, Wisser oversaw the organization’s launch of Northern Virginia’s first El Sistema-inspired music education program, ASO Sympatico, as well as the organization’s celebratory performance of the 100th Anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with a one-night only performance at the National Gallery of Art Modern Art Wing, featuring new choreography and performance by Bowen McCauley Dance.

Previously, Wisser worked as General Manager at Cantata Singers, a choral organization in Boston, Massachusetts that administered Classroom Cantatas, a residency program in a diverse spread of Boston Public Schools where students create their own musical compositions based in curricular guidelines. Wisser also completed an administrative internship with the Wolf Trap Opera Company in Vienna, Virginia.

Jessica graduated with a B.A. from Duke University, focusing on a double major in Music and Public Policy. While at Duke, Jessica sang with the Duke University Chorale as well as with Duke University’s oldest all-female a cappella group, Duke Out of the Blue. An arts lover from a young age, Jessica began her music career as a pianist, debuted on the local musical theater stage as Fish #2 in The Little Mermaid, and studied voice and music theory during high school at the Fine Arts Center in her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. Jessica currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband, Evan, her daughter, Claire, and her dog, Jefferson.


Jared Shamberger

Program Director


Jared (he/him/his) is a DC-based playwright/director/actor. In 2014, he wrote and performed his first one man show, 12, featuring several solo pieces he created as a founding member of Brave Soul Collective. Jared is most proud of his work in HIV prevention, including his travels throughout the country using theater to educate students on the importance of sexual health and responsibility. He considers himself an "artivist," combining his artistic sensibilities and his activist spirit.




Teshonne Powell

Communications Manager

Hailing from Providence, RI by way of Atlanta, GA, Teshonne (she/her/hers) has always indulged her love for the performing arts. As a graduate of Duke University, she went on to work with youth through Teach For America and Festival Ballet Providence and has been a proud supporter and participant in community-oriented theater through her time with Mixed Magic Theatre in Pawtucket, RI. Since obtaining her Master of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies from Howard University, Teshonne has cultivated her love for DC arts while working with Atlas Performance Arts Center on H Street NE. She has also worked with FRESHH Theatre Inc. as an actor, and as the coordinator for its out-of-school-time arts education program, Griot Girls. Her first play, Afromemory, was presented by FRESHH Inc. Theatre in the spring of 2018 and a full-length version of the play will be presented in a staged reading at the Kennedy Center Fall 2018. She enjoys reading and writing speculative fiction, performing in the arts and supporting her friends--all wonderful and talented members of the DC arts community.


Emma Wesslund

Development Manager

Born right here in Washington, DC and raised in Louisville, KY, Emma (she/her/hers) has always been passionate about the performing arts. Prior to joining YPT, Emma was the Institutional Fundraising Coordinator at Shakespeare Theatre Company, where she started as the Development Fellow. A graduate of Indiana University, she holds a B.A. in Theatre and Political Science as well as a Certificate in Arts Management. In July 2018, Emma's love for new works led her to produce Three Muses Theatre's staging of God is Dead and April's Getting Married by A. A. Brenner at the Capital Fringe Festival. In her spare time, Emma practices yoga, does her best to complete New York Times crossword puzzles and tries to experience as much of DC's vibrant arts scene as possible.

Claudia Rosales Waters

Program Associate


Claudia Rosales Waters (she/her/hers) has been a teaching artist for ten years, getting to explore learning through the arts in classrooms across Atlanta, New York and Washington D.C. She achieved her Master of Fine Arts in Performance degree from the University of Maryland in 2013. Claudia is an accomplished playwright and performer, specializing in physical theatre, devising new works and stage combat. Recently, Waters has been working with Romanian school Transylvania College, consulting on a mindfulness guidebook for teachers. She is exploring teaching mindfulness through theater, as well as developing training for teachers and schools hoping to bring the practice into their community. 

Keta Newborn

Production Associate

Keta Newborn (she/her/hers) is an ambitious, tenderhearted and compassionate poet, self-publishing author, motivational speaker, freelance stage manager and mother of two daughters.  Prior to joining YPT, Keta focused primarily on being a freelance theater practitioner working throughout the DMV areas as well as New York, Boston and Atlanta areas.  Her involvement in the theater world allowed her to hold many different titles on many different levels for over a decade. During Keta’s spare time, one can find her traveling, going to music festivals, hosting game nights/conversation parties, cooking or curled up with a good book in her hands.  Keta would like to thank her Father above for the opportunity to be used as one of HIS vessels, working to bring HIS work of art into the hearts of many. To learn more about Keta, please visit

Jimmy Watkins

Program Assistant

James Watkins (he/him/his), better known as Jimmy Watts, is an artist in every sense of the word. Born and raised in Washington, DC, Jimmy graduated from Bates College in 2012 with a B.A. in English and later Georgetown University in 2018 with a certification in Nonprofit Management. Before joining YPT, Jimmy directed the Queen Beez music program, which was created to work with young girls using Hip-Hop as a vehicle to foster self-expression, confidence, writing skills and address issues that young people encounter in their lives. This inspired Jimmy's love for arts education, which led him to partner with the American Public Health Association to facilitate youth engagement projects in Nebraska and Ohio. With his leadership, students from Nebraska's Omaha High School wrote an original song addressing gun violence and filmed a music video. The video later premiered at the SXSW's Education conference the following year. In 2019, Jimmy partnered with Words Beats and Life, DC's Hip-Hop nonprofit, where he joined as one of its Board of Directors.

In his spare time, Jimmy can be found working on a television script and recording his debut album. And of course, he's always looking for an opportunity to engage youth with the one tool that saved his life: Hip-Hop.

Britt Willis

Administrative Assistant

Britt A. Willis (they/them/theirs) is a playwright, administrator, graphic designer, and game creator interested in queer, trans stories, and the intersection of theatre and games - including making meaningful, interactive experiences for audiences. They are currently a member of the Playwrights' Center and Freelancer’s Union and lead the theatreWashington Mentoring Program for DC-area theatre practitioners. As a former resident of the Orchard Project’s Liveness Lab, they discussed and cultivated new ways of presenting theatrical work in digital spaces. You can learn more about Britt and their work at