Adapting and creating with the Young Playwrights’ Workshop

December 19, 2022

As with any Renaissance, something new forms from what is left behind.

As YPT returned to fully in-person program delivery last spring YPT Education Director Jared Shamberger and Executive Director Brigitte Winter noticed a need for greater support for educators, who have struggled so much throughout the global pandemic, and for their students, who have experienced a lot of trauma and learning loss over the past few years. YPT’s program team had experience providing professional development workshops for educators around arts integration strategies and building inclusive classrooms, but it was clear that YPT’s core In-school Playwriting Program would need to adapt to include more deliberate and responsive support for partner educators if the program was going to be successful in the current learning environment.

The Young Playwrights’ Workshop was born from this need. This pilot program is training a cohort of 5 DC Public Schools (DCPS) theater educators to integrate playwriting into their classrooms over the course of a year-long partnership. Provided in partnership with DC Public Schools, the program builds on YPT’s core In-school Playwriting curriculum, and all of the many arts integration interventions the company has developed over the past 27 years, and offers them up as a responsive toolkit for these educators.

In this model, the educators are the experts on their students’ needs and their teaching goals, and YPT program staff are the experts on the responsive arts intervention toolkit. Together, they find the right workshops and exercises for each classroom to engage the students more deeply in reading and writing and learning, while guiding them through writing and performing plays that they will present at the annual DCPS Performing Arts Festival in the spring.

To pull off this level of responsive long-term programming, YPT needed someone to manage the program who could bring their own skills, talents, and knowledge to supplement YPT’s 27 years of history and tools. That is where YPT Program Manager Madison Chapman comes in.

As a recent addition to the YPT team, Chapman added a unique perspective having taught with DCPS for three years. Now, Chapman works directly with YPT’s five workshop sites, classroom teachers, and students. Visiting each site multiple times a month, Chapman is actualizing one of the core reasons she joined YPT.

“As I was working in the classroom, I realized that I was extremely passionate about curriculum planning and supporting other theater educators,” Chapman said. “I wanted to find an opportunity where this could become the focus of the majority of my work.”

Chapman has been key in establishing the responsive nature of the Young Playwrights’ Workshop, which gives students in different classrooms the space to express their voices in their own ways.

“Creating space for students to create and use their voice is extremely important,” Chapman said. “It gives students the opportunity to trust their thoughts and process and the confidence to share their work with others.”

Because of the workshop’s open-ended nature and the fact it’s still in an experimental phase for YPT programming, Chapman believes it’s the perfect environment for students to explore and experiment with their creative processes.

As you support various organizations and charities this giving season, we hope you’ll choose to include YPT and our programs in your giving, and that you will help further the values and practices YPT engages in every day to chart a bright future for our students and our community.

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