“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.”
Despite Jhoselin’s excitement at “the chance to write what I wanted to write,” she struggled with writer’s block for much of the In-School Playwriting Program. “Finally, I was like, ‘Wait, I can do a plot twist story!’” she remembers. Inspired by Family Guy and Shear Madness, Jhoselin sat down and, in one night, wrote the ten-page play Aubrey and Clyde, a complex whodunit about a high school graduate who gets shot at her own graduation party. “I definitely put some crazy stuff in there,” she laughs.
Crazy or not, Jhoselin’s play was selected for the 2013 New Play Festival, and brought the crowd to its feet at GALA Hispanic Theatre. “When I heard the gasps in the audience, it was the best feeling ever,” she reminisces. Rewriting and rehearsing the play, too, was an exhilarating experience: “I was a 16 year-old and [the actors] were expecting all these decisions from me. …It was like, ‘Yeah, I’m the boss.’”
Nowadays, Jhoselin takes theater and education classes, and hopes to one day teach elementary school. “I love the classroom setting of an elementary school…it’s fresh for them. It’s colorful, it’s bright.” Jhoselin plans to bring her own colorful approach to bear: her teaching style will incorporate the “student-centered” techniques she first learned in YPT’s In-School Program, combine those with her own interest in multicultural education and sprinkle in as much drama as possible.
“My future teachers and I, we will teach the future generations theater. We will bring theater back to life,” she says. We at YPT can sleep a little more soundly knowing that a new era of theater educators is emerging, led by Amazing Alumni like Jhoselin.