"In school, there is a limit to what you have to write about. In YPT there is no limit. The limit is space and other galaxies."
When 12th grader Morena Amaya is asked what she likes to do in her free time, she says, "Tough question because I do a lot of stuff." She is involved in a program that helps her apply for college, is an avid reader of fantasy novels and enjoys listening to music and spending time with her family. She is also a member of the Young Playwrights’ Workshop, an after-school student theater ensemble that works together to create, develop, rehearse and perform an original play. This year’s final performance will be on June 17 as part of the DC Source Festival, an annual three-week festival of new work.
Morena says her favorite subject at Bell Multicultural High School is science because, "I’m good at it and it’s fun and interesting. In anatomy and physiology you can ask all kinds of random questions like, ’Why do we have hiccups?’ and you think, ’Wow, science is so weird and gross and interesting.’"
Before YPT, Morena never enjoyed writing in school, but learned about the freedom of creative writing when she first wrote a play with YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program. She says, "In school you write based on what the teacher gives you... but in YPT it’s like just be yourself, write whatever comes to your mind and be creative. It’s just fun. In school, there is a limit to what you have to write about. In YPT there is no limit. The limit is space and other galaxies."
Working together in an ensemble with the other young artists in the Young Playwrights’ Workshop has been an important learning experience for Morena. She says of the experience, "If you aren’t there, you affect not yourself but everyone else. So we learn group responsibility and teamwork. Because we all work together for that play."
Being involved in YPT has also helped Morena in school. "I’m a little more loud," she says with a laugh, "even though I’m still shy. And I’m more creative, even though I still have trouble with writing. But I’m making progress. I’m more confident."
When other students ask Morena about the Young Playwrights’ Workshop, she tells them, "It’s the best thing ever! Because I’m weird and crazy. So normal people are like, ’You’re weird and crazy.’ But in YPT they embrace it and are like, ’Yes! Be crazy!’" The Workshop does more than allow students to let out their inner "crazy," according to Morena. "It helps you speak out louder, it helps you with writing and it helps you with teamwork. You learn to communicate better with other people, and you learn responsibility and it’s just plain fun!"
YPT is important, Morena says, "because I see that a lot of students are in gangs or just hang out on the streets when you’re supposed to be doing something for yourself...People should donate so they can expand this program. YPT helps students find something to do after school, helps stop violence and we’re good actors and playwrights just trying to have fun."
Morena plans to use her interest in science and the skills she has learned in YPT in a future career as a veterinarian. (In fact, she demonstrated her affinity for animals by wearing an animal print hat to the interview!) She has already been accepted to one of the colleges she applied to for a pre-veterinary program. She says of her future plans, "First I want to graduate high school, so hope that the end of the world doesn’t happen. And then I want to go to college and do the pre-vet stuff and see about taking acting classes for fun. Or maybe I can write plays and see if people in theater would like them, maybe it would give them ideas."
For now, she is just excited to be in her second year with the Workshop. "With YPT you get to be yourself and they won’t criticize you or anything. It’s just like a big family."
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