Anacostia Playhouse Hosts Young Playwrights’ #nofilter

by: Shannen Hill Howard University News Service
/ (Photos/HUNS) /
0
18

WASHINGTON — High school is full of fun events, like prom and football games. Rarely, however, do adults have the chance to see a student outlook on the heavy issues of homelessness, depression, and death. Four young, Black high school students are showing their stories on an playhousepic2array of issues that are important to them, from suicide to pop-stars, in plays that are set to make audiences cry, laugh, and perch on the edge of their seats. After selecting through thousands, these dynamic plays will be performed by professional actors at Anacostia Playhouse during a free event 7 p.m. Feb. 10.

The four plays will focus on what each young playwright sees when taking a look at modern life in D.C. in a production titled, “New WritersNow! #nofilter.” Quanisha Mitchell, Nakia Greene, Lawrencia Odoms and China Warren have all written their plays through Young Playwrights Theater, a school program that teaches the art of writing. The company has paired the students with professional actors so that they can see what it is like to work in the theater industry. The plays will be acted out in a stage reading, which is when the actors act out the play in front of an audience, without the set and wardrobe. Many professional playwrights use this process to develop their work and understand how audiences will respond. This experience usually is not available to young people. These students will be able to experience it first-hand as their work is brought the light.

“Our playwrights have such strong voice and important things to say that we know we just need to give them a platform to be heard,” said Nicole Jost, artistic director of Young Playwrights Theater. “That’s why we’re calling this show #nofilter, because we want to showcase their visions in a way that is true and uncensored.”playhousepic1

Young Playwrights Theater is the only professional theater company dedicated to arts education in D.C.’s. Located in all eight wards, the organization gives over 2,000 students the opportunity to express themselves through writing. Their In-School Playwriting Program enters the English classrooms of elementary, middle, and high schools throughout D.C. once a week and teaches students the art of playwriting. Plays are selected for events throughout the year, where professional actors and directors bring the concepts to life.

“The students get to write about anything on their minds, no censorship. There are so many times where the students say ‘anything, I can write about anything?’” said Brigitte Moore, executive director of Young Playwrights. “… and it’s so powerful when the students are able to work with professionals.”

This production is particularly significant for Young Playwrights Theater. It is in honor of Black History Month and the 20th anniversary of the company. Wild Women Theatre, which is a theatre company focusing on Black womanhood, has also partnered with the company to produce the event and work with the four young women playwrights. {Javon’s Dream}, written by Quanisha Mitchell, a junior at Woodrow Wilson High School, is about a homeless teenager who dreams to find love and a home.  “I realized that a lot of teens are homeless nowadays, so I did some research and wrote about it,”said Mitchell. “The audience should expect a lot of funny and serious moments and some parts that will be shocking and make you a little teary-eyed.”

The second play, written by Nakia Greene, a junior at Bell Multicultural High School, is called {Despair}. Her play focuses on a group of students who get locked inside their boarding school after one of their classmates is murdered. This one is set to have the audience laughing and on the edge of their seats, as it is a darkly comedic murder mystery.

“These stories are pretty cool and it’s going to be really fun,” said Moore. “It is really important to come out a support these young people because they put a lot of work into them.”

Lawrencia Odoms, a senior Ballou High School, wrote a play called {P.S. Problems}, which takes a more serious tone. The play centers around a female student living with mental health issues who ends up at a mental hospital. It will show the young woman’s experiences in the hospital and how she deals with her depression and cutting herself. Odom particularly liked working with the professional actors because the experience helped her develop the characters more.

“The first time it was ever read by older people, I was super nervous, but they loved it,” said Odom. “I really thank them for it because the characters weren’t how I envisioned in my head. It really helped me, and they were excellent to work with.”

{Saving Scarlett}, written by China Warren of Ballou High School, deals with a young lady who runs away from home. She goes on to meet a pop star who helps her out. {Saving Scarlett}, along with {P.S. Problems}, will be produced by Wild Women’s Theatre, with a mission to showcase multiple dimensions of Black womanhood. This is second joint venture of Young Playwrights Theater and Wild Women’s Theatre.

“It’s nice to be able to work and expand with people that are a lot younger than us and to see the things that their dealing with that we probably weren’t, or were, dealing with at their age,” said Farah Harris, co-founder of Wild Women’s Theatre and program associate at Young Playwrights Theater.  “We’re consistently impressed by the insight of the youth, the humor through all their characters and all of the multilayers. It’s a great feeling to be able to bring their work to light.”

The professional stage readings will be at Anacostia Playhouse and are free and open to the public. “New Writers Now! #nofilter” will feature a pre-show reception at 6:30 p.m. with free snacks and drinks, until the show starts at 7 p.m. There will be a talkback with the playwrights after the performance along with the display of a mural created by the artists and audience at “Silence is Violence,” a previous event held to inspire a continued dialogue about Black Lives Matter.

For more information on “New Writers Now!#nofilter,” visit www.youngplaywrightstheater.org.

NO COMMENTS