By 2022-23 YPIP Playwright Elizabeth Shannon
Working with Young Playwrights’ Theater and the Young Playwrights in Progress (YPIP) program has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my artistic career. My goal when starting YPIP was to transform my one-act play, Mama Bushwick is Dead, into a full-length.
I was so excited to be chosen as a resident artist, but also nervous to be working in such a professional capacity. I felt like a full collaborator and voice in the room rather than just a student. This was incredible, but made me nervous to have so much agency. Luckily, Keta and Farah were nothing short of wonderful. They were welcoming, supportive, kind, and had so much brilliant insight and advice about my play in specific and playwriting in general. I wish I could write every positive adjective about my experience with them.
Throughout the course of a year, my piece changed from 50 pages to 90 pages, and went through three workshop readings, the last of which was open to the public, and three talkbacks with the actors from the reading and other theater professionals. Now, it is the 2023 winner of the Bela Kiralyfalvi National Student Playwriting Competition and is being produced at Wichita State University in October 2023. Evidently, the process with YPIP allowed me to transform my piece into a script ready for production and aided me in finding incredible specificity and depth to the characters, setting, and plot.
Throughout the process, Keta and Farah were amazing about checking in and making sure that the program was serving my needs and goals as a writer. We adjusted the number of readings, how often we met, and the structure of the meetings to best serve the piece. They were also so understanding of my other commitments, such as school and work, and took care to ensure the experience was positive rather than stressful. I always felt able and comfortable to address concerns and ideas with them and felt as if I was in a non-judgemental space that was perfect for developing work.
Working with Joan, my dramaturg, was an equally rewarding experience. Joan gave me amazing resources to explore and specific things to research. She had lots of knowledge about the major elements and themes of my play, so was a perfect fit for the project. She also provided a refreshing perspective on the piece as someone who joined the team midway through the residency, which gave Farah, Keta, and me new and exciting ways to look at the piece.
My play would not be where it is today, nor would I be as developed as an artist, without the mentorship of Farah, Keta, Joan, and Young Playwrights’ Theater.
Applications for Young Playwrights in Progress 2023-24 are now open!
Watch the public reading of Mama Bushwick is Dead