In the Beginning

Young Playwrights’ Theater was founded by award-winning playwright Karen Zacarías in 1995. After earning an MFA in playwriting from Boston University, Karen returned to her hometown of Washington, DC. Seeking to use her art to impact her community, she began to teach playwriting workshops in DC Public Schools. Karen knew the impact creative writing could have on a young person’s sense of empowerment from her own childhood experiences of using storytelling to cope with bullying by humanizing her bullies and imagining different endings to their interactions. Seeing how playwriting had a positive impact on students’ literacy skills, sense of empathy, and personal self-image, Karen was inspired to expand her work, incorporating YPT as a nonprofit in 1997.

Karen Zacarías


Young Playwrights’ Theater inspires young people to realize the power of their own voices. YPT provides inspiration, tools, and opportunities for young and emerging artists to develop and share their stories. We prioritize young people who are targeted by systems of oppression, and we also collaborate with people of all ages who are invested in the ways in which theater can transform lives and communities.

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Young Playwrights’ Theater knows the potential of creative expression because we’ve seen it. Our young playwrights’ lives are enriched, their horizons are broadened, and their confidence soars. We engage our students in joyful, creative play, bolster their personal resilience, enhance their artistic skills, and create an arts-enriched world in which marginalized perspectives are valued and heard.

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YPT is guided by our core organizational values. We use these values to evaluate every organizational decision, from program structure to production themes, from annual budget to hiring. Our antiracist and anti-oppressive values are not secondary–they are an intrinsic part of our work.

  • Acknowledging Oppression and Reducing Its Harm

    We are committed to acknowledging oppression and reducing its harm through our organizational structure, policies, and practices, and we make decisions and implement projects through an anti-oppressive lens.

  • Anti-oppressive Communication

    We do not use language that perpetuates oppression through paternalism, microaggressions, harassment, or other forms of dehumanizing and exclusionary communication.

  • Commitment to Health and Safety

    In policy and practice, we actively prioritize the health and safety of students, co-workers, and community members. We recognize that racism and oppression are issues of health and safety, and we work to reduce the harm of racism and other forms of oppression accordingly.

  • Responsive Flexibility

    We understand that people, art, and our work are dynamic and constantly changing. We believe it is important that we respond to these dynamic and changing situations by being flexible while maintaining our commitment to our touchstone and high standards.

  • Respecting Autonomy

    We believe that people are experts in their own experiences and are in the best position to decide what they need and how they want to meet that need.

  • Commitment to Craft

    We are artists who understand the deep generative value of being intentional and striving for excellence in one’s process.

  • Creative Collaboration

    We believe that we do our best work together because theater is a collaborative art. No person is an island at YPT.

  • Acknowledging the Role of Financial Sustainability in Decision-making

    We recognize that fiscal responsibility is integral to keeping YPT sustainable and thriving. We acknowledge that this value reflects the reality of the racial capitalist system in which we currently operate, and that our organizational values must guide and be reflected in our operations. We therefore actively consider and work to reduce harm in all fundraising and financial decisions.