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



Amazing Alumni

Each month, YPT profiles a new alum of a YPT program in our electronic newsletter, The Wire.

SanTresa Wright-Benjamin
Amazing Alumna, October 2016

“Hopefully I’ve made a difference in someone’s life or day.”   

At the front desk of King-Greenleaf Recreation Center in Southwest DC, SanTresa Wright-Benjamin welcomes guests with a smile. A customer service representative with the DC government, SanTresa radiates warmth and capability, and keeps a sharp eye out for boys roughhousing in the halls.

We ran into SanTresa while holding youth writing workshops at King-Greenleaf for Crossing the Street: SW Is..., YPT’s upcoming celebration of Southwest’s past, present and future. “YPT?” she said, “I did that. I even have an old picture!”


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Kenrry Alvarado
Amazing Alumnus, September 2016

“[YPT] helped me understand how powerful my words can be.”

Kenrry Alvarado overflows with passion for his students. Before he has even sat down, the bright, 23 year-old YPT alumnus starts gushing about the work he is doing as a ninth grade Biology teacher at Bell Multicultural High School. 

“It’s really about the students,” he says. “We’re giving them the skills and the content that they need to know in order to be successful.


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Nakia Greene
Amazing Alumna, August 2016

“I think I earned my spot in this place for playwrights.”

Nakia Greene never thought she’d be where she is today. As a sophomore at Columbia Heights Education Campus in 2014, she was shocked when she found out her play, Despair, was a Finalist for the New Play Festival. “I didn’t even expect it to be considered,” she said then. “That’s a really big achievement for me.”


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KaMiya Barrett
Amazing Alumna, May 2016

​“I really love being here.”

KaMiya Barrett’s energy and enthusiasm will knock you off your feet. Every Wednesday afternoon, the Banneker Academic High School senior bounds into YPT’s office for Young Playwrights’ Workshop rehearsal, greeting everyone she sees with a smile, a hug or an infectious laugh.

“[Workshop] is really, really fun,” she says. “It’s a second family."


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Sam Burris, Nana Gongadze and Anna Vargas
Amazing Alumni, March 2016

YPT’s 2016 Giving Voice Award Gala on March 12 featured spectacular speeches by WJLA’s Jummy Olabanji and the guest of honor, Shakespeare Theatre Co. Artistic Director Michael Kahn -- but the stage may well have been stolen by three of YPT’s own playwrights, high school seniors Sam Burris, Nana Gongadze and Anna Vargas.

Read on for highlights from the words of Sam, Nana and Anna!


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Nora Spellane
Amazing Alumna, February 2016

“It’s your story, and don’t give up telling it until it’s heard.

Nora Spellane knows the power of a good story. The second-semester senior at Macalester College in Minnesota has been telling—and listening to—stories since she was a young girl growing up in DC.

“The theater bug had [already] bitten me,” she says, when YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program came to her ninth grade theater class at Wilson High School. “I loved having the opportunity to tell a story, and I really loved the opportunity of learning other people’s stories. I think that [YPT] is especially unique, [in] that they empower people to tell stories.”


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Jhoselin Beltran-Contreras
Amazing Alumna, January 2016

 “Theater will always be a part of me.”

Jhoselin Beltrán-Contreras’ eyes gleam when she talks about the arts in public schools. “I’m very passionate about theater and education,” she says. “It’s so beautiful. …It’s a shame that lots of public schools are losing their theater.”

The sophomore Education major at the University of Maryland grew up on stage, studying theater and performing in musicals at Sitar Arts Center. When YPT came into her classroom as a junior at Bell Multicultural High School, she flung herself into the playwriting process. “It was our chance to express our love for theater in our school,” she says. “I thought it was really important for YPT to be there.


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Nevaeh Edwards, Nora Foster and Kaitlyn Murphy
Amazing Alumnae, October 2015

In honor of Girls Write Out! and the voices of young women everywhere, YPT’s Amazing Alumnae for October, 2015 are three of our Girls Write Out! playwrights: Nevaeh Edwards, Nora Foster and Kaitlyn Murphy! 

Check out excerpts from their fun and throught-provoking post-show talkback with YPT Founding Artistic Director Karen Zacarías!


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Reyna Rios
Amazing Alumna, September 2015

“I feel like I can contribute a lot.”

YPT alumna Reyna Rios was born to be a teacher. Quiet and gentle yet determined, she exudes patience, compassion and a commitment to social justice: hallmarks of a person bound to make a deep impact on the lives of young people.


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Erin Powers
Amazing Alumna, July 2015

“Being recognized for what I love to do, that’s the best feeling
in the world.”

Erin Powers has big dreams, and she won’t stop until she achieves them. The 19 year-old Film & Video major at Georgia State University aspires to a multi-faceted entertainment career, and envisions herself using her art to spread empowerment and hope.


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Kylie Moran
Amazing Alumna, June 2015

“To see all of my hard work pay off, that’s the biggest prize ever.”
 

Kylie Moran found her voice through playwriting, and now she will not be silenced. The 19 year-old alumna of the In-School Playwriting Program battled bullying through much of her life, and struggled to find acceptance as she came out of the closet. But thanks to the power of the arts, Kylie found a strong community that supported her through her journey.


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Alfonso Escobar
Amazing Alumnus, May 2015

“I try to make [writing] not a lonely career.”

Alfonso Escobar believes that theater should be synonymous with community. The YPT alumnus and aspiring playwright has long used his craft to build relationships, prompt conversation and share the stories of those whose voices are rarely heard.


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Eva Sirotic
Amazing Alumna, April 2015

YPT gives you some really amazing opportunities.”

The Student Advisory Council has a new resident satirist, and her name is Eva Sirotic. The quick-witted ninth grader at Washington-Lee High School is not afraid to tell it like it is, and her deft humor has helped establish her as one of YPT’s most promising young alumni.


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Paul McCoyer
Amazing Alumnus, March 2015


They didn’t tell us what to do—they helped us be creative and write what we wanted to write.”

Paul McCoyer began his journey with YPT as a boy, and he will end it as a young man. The freshman at School Without Walls has been involved with our organization for nearly four years, and in that time has become an integral part of our alumni network and a proud champion of our work.


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Sarah Giffin
Amazing Alumna, February 2015

 

“I saw in my own story the power of being asked to tell a story.”

Sarah Giffin found her calling in the In-School Playwriting Program. The 23-year-old DC native, who recently returned to the city to work in social justice, the arts and youth development, credits our work with opening her eyes to theater’s power as an instrument of social change.


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Andrew Ferlo
Amazing Alumnus, January 2015

“You have the opportunity 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.


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Sheila Walcott
Amazing Alumna, December 2014

 “I literally changed what I wanted to do with my life because of this.”  

Sheila Walcott has come a long way in her life: not just personally but geographically as well. A native of DC, she now lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a Manager of Original Films for the Disney Channel. But that was not her original path—not by a longshot.

 


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Manuel Hernandez
Amazing Alumnus, October 2014

“It was just like, ‘Okay, so I have a voice. I’m writing something—I have a voice.’”

The incredible journey of Manuel Hernandez began with pots and pans. Born in El Salvador and raised mostly by his grandparents, Manuel discovered a passion for percussion at a young age. “I would just take my grandma’s pots and just beat them up,” he says, “because I didn’t have the money to buy a drum.”


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Berta Gonzalez
Amazing Alumna, September 2014

"At the end of the day, what matters is that you write with passion."
 
Berta Gonzalez saw her dreams brought to life onstage, then made them a reality for herself.
 
Click below to learn more about our very first Amazing Alumna!

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