Aayanna Collier is a YPT alumna, whom we first profiled as a Promising Playwright in April, 2012. Aayanna was in our In-School Playwriting Program in fourth grade at E.W. Stokes Community Freedom PCS, and her play, The Book and the Restless, was featured both in the 2012 New Play Festival and on our Express Tour. Now in high school, Aayanna joined YPT’s Lincoln Heights Arts Camp for the summer, and we seized the moment to reconnect with her in our first-ever Promising Playwright Follow-Up!
“Do anything to make you happy, and don’t give up.”
The more things change for Aayanna Collier, the more they stay the same. Since we first met her in 2012, Aayanna has moved from DC to Atlanta, then back to DC; she has stopped writing songs and started producing short films; and, as the #BlackLivesMatter movement has risen around her, she has begun to engage with more difficult themes. Yet the soft-spoken, friendly young woman in YPT’s Lincoln Heights Arts Camp is not a far cry from the girl who wrote The Book and the Restless, a play about books hatching a plan to find bacon. “I’m still kind of like that,” Aayanna admits with a laugh.
Aayanna’s easygoing manner is clear from the way she talks about moving: “I liked Atlanta,” she says. “It was very diverse, I met a lot of people and I made lifelong friends.” That being said, “I’m also happy to be back in DC.”
Now that she is back, Aayanna wasted no time diving back into the arts, enrolling in YPT’s summer photography/playwriting/music/visual art camp. This time, however, her mission is a far more serious one: to speak out against police brutality against black communities. She is doing so through a play called The Revolution will not be televised. Following Jermaine, a young black man “who’s sick of it [and] wants to make a change,” The Revolution... takes an unflinching look at police violence, abuse of power and the culture of fear that surrounds so many black lives. Aayanna is only a few scenes in, but she is determined to finish the play—and we will do all that we can to help her.
Beyond starting at a new school and grappling with these difficult issues, Aayanna is looking ahead to a bright future. “I’ve really gotten into film and producing,” she says. “So, I want to go to college and study film.” Her first film, The Outcast (a remake of the 1983 cult classic The Outsiders) got rave reviews in her Lit/Comp class, and her top three college choices right now are NYU, Columbia and Howard!
We are so happy to have Aayanna back in our lives, and can’t wait to keep working with her at camp and beyond. The sky’s the limit for this young artist, and we hope she keeps reaching for the stars!