The Young Playwright’s Theater’s ‘New Play Festival’

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Inspiring students to realize the power of their own voices for nearly 20 years, The Young Playwright’s Theatre is hosting their annual New Play Festival. Held over a series of three evenings, featuring playwrights from the elementary school, middle school, and high school levels, the festival has highlighted 15 of the finest young writers in the DC area this year, honoring them with a full professional production of their new play. Encouraging imaginative, creative pathways to success with this festival, YPT received 2,000 submissions in this year’s festival and had to select just 36 finalists, narrowing it down to the final 15 that would be shown for the festival. Covering Monday night’s Elementary School plays was a treat to see the vivid imaginations and exceptional talent that is thriving in the upcoming generation of playwrights.

The playwrights seated in the front row as the play festival is about to begin! Photo by Jeff Gilliland.
The playwrights seated in the front row as the play festival is about to begin! Photo by Jeff Gilliland.

Each play was showcased as a professional production with real sets and costumes and professional actors. Having such a process available to these young playwrights not only encourages them to explore their own writing talent, but it enables them to feel like a real writer. Brought into the rehearsal process to comment and give feedback on their work, the young playwrights are involved at the most involved level of turning their plays from page to stage.

'Diamond of Destiny' by Nevaeh Edwards from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. Photo by Jeff Gilliland.
‘Diamond of Destiny’ by Nevaeh Edwards from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. Photo by Jeff Gilliland.

Before each of their plays were presented the young playwrights were given a chance to speak to the audience. Many of the young playwrights gave words of encouragement and inspiration to fellow young playwrights and expressed what had motivated and inspired them to write their own plays. All five of the elementary school playwrights had wonderful things to say before their plays were viewed.

Josephine Crittenden, the writer of The Torn Captor, from Watkins Elementary School said that when writing a play it’s best to, “be creative and use your own life experiences to help you.” Durall Townes, writer of The Battle of the Truck and the Car, from Plummer Elementary School said, “Never, never stop trying to accomplish your goals, and always try your best.” Zaynab Ewing-Boyd, the writer of The World is Almost Ruined, from Stokes Public Charter School, encouraged everyone to, “write about things you are passionate about.” Many of the young playwrights thanked their families and all of the mentors at the YPT program for helping inspire and encourage them.

The Battle of the Truck and the Car by Durall Townes from Plummer Elementary School. Photo by Jeff Gilliland.
‘The Battle of the Truck and the Car’ by Durall Townes from Plummer Elementary School. Photo by Jeff Gilliland.

The plays were very clever, many of them inspired from personal experiences or things that the young students were passionate about. The World is Almost Ruined, written by Ewing-Boyd, was a play that focused on saving endangered animals near Mount Kilimanjaro, as the young author has a strong passion for all animals. The Battle of the Truck and the Car, written by Townes, was inspired by a series of car movies he had watched on television while The Bestest Friends and The Biggest Battle, written by Joshua Brown of Bancroft Elementary School, was based on the real-life dog he had rescued. The caliber of creativity and cohesive storytelling that was present in these plays shows that there is a great deal of hope and potential for future generations of plays.

Nearly all of the plays, in one way or another, featured the hallmark of youthful imaginations. Whether it was the soul-stealing bad aliens in Nevaeh Edwards (of Amidon-Bowen Elementary School)’s play Diamond of Destiny, or the magic potions being brewed in The Torn Captor written by Crittenden; all of the plays had some element of magic or fantasy— a precious gift often found waiting to be explored in the brilliant minds of children. Talking animals, incredibly funny characters, all five of the plays featured many of these great qualities that made watching an evening of plays written by young artists a true delight. The stories were funny, but also heartwarming and often had lessons to be learned or morals that were revealed by the end of the play.

'The Torn Captor' by Josephine Crittenden from Watkins Elementary School. Photo by Jeff Gilliland.
‘The Torn Captor’ by Josephine Crittenden from Watkins Elementary School. Photo by Jeff Gilliland.

Be sure to keep up with what is happening at YPT by visiting their website for upcoming events and more opportunities to become involved in this wonderful program that inspires children of all ages to unleash their creativity!

The Young Playwright’s Theater’s New Play Festival played April 28, 29, and 30, 2014 at The GALA Hispanic Theatre—3333 14th Street NW in Washington DC. For more information about future YPT events, visit their website.