“You have the opportunity to put yourself out there, to put your thoughts and your words out there, and they’ll be taken seriously.”
Not every YPT student goes on to become a professional playwright. Some move to L.A.; some become teachers; some work for the Department of Defense. Some, like Andrew Ferlo, discover a passion for theater in our In-School Playwriting Program and follow it from the page to the stage.
Enrolled in the In-School Program as a tenth grader at Woodrow Wilson High School, Andrew did not take to the program right away. “At first, I was kind of cynical about it, because I was sixteen,” he says. “But I ended up writing a ... pretty sappy love story that I was kind of proud of, and it ended up being chosen to be performed!”
Andrew’s play, Warm Milk, was featured in our New Play Festival in 2005. Though he describes himself as “a bit of a brat” throughout the dramaturgy process, watching his work performed onstage had a major impact on him. “That’s kind of a gift ... to have your words taken seriously,” he says.
More importantly, however, Andrew’s experience as a produced playwright set him up for what was to come. The following year, he started “actively auditioning” for roles in school plays, and by the time he reached UMass Amherst he had decided to major in Theater. “It was something that I could potentially do and love to do, which was elusive up until that point."
Theater degree in hand, Andrew returned to DC to become a stage actor, and since 2012 has performed in over one dozen productions ranging from Caesar & Dada at WSC Avant Bard to Stuart Little at Adventure Theatre MTC. Throughout it all, his experience as a produced playwright has guided his interactions with the playwrights he works with.
“Looking back on it now, you realize how much effort playwrights put in each word,” he notes. That makes him particularly attentive to capturing the writer’s intent. “In [my] first read, one of the actors flubbed a line and I got really upset. I was like, ‘No, that’s not how I wrote it—I wrote it like this!’ ...I’ve totally butchered lines, too, so in retrospect, I get it.”
But being a YPT alumnus doesn’t just guide how Andrew interprets dialogue—it has impacted the kind of work he has taken on over the years. While at UMass-Amherst, Andrew performed plays written by students at Gateway Regional Middle School. After one performance, he remembers watching the playwright get congratulated by several other girls in her class. “The teacher came up to us and told us that those girls would have never talked to that girl during the day. Seeing something like that was—was pretty big.”
Now on the “other end of the board” from where he began, Andrew Ferlo has never forgotten the lessons he learned in the In-School Playwriting Program. We hope they serve him, his audiences and the DC community well for years to come.