The In-School Playwriting Program enhances student literacy, creative expression and collaboration through the art of playwriting. With 12 years of experience in the classroom, Young Playwrights’ Theater has developed this interactive series of workshops through which students learn how to craft a play while exploring improvisation, free writing, revision, rehearsal and performance. During 14 in-class workshops, students explore the mechanics of language, drama, and self-expression, culminating with each student writing his or her own short play. Professional actors and directors visit the classroom throughout the process, reading students’ plays and helping to bring their words to life. Students also have the opportunity to study published plays and attend matinee performances, after which they discuss the plays with actors and directors. The best plays are chosen by a YPT reading committee, composed of professional playwrights, directors, and actors, to be performed in the New Play Festival, which is produced by theater professionals at a local theater or the school itself.
Each year YPT has further developed and refined its process and several schools throughout the District now rely on YPT to provide its holistic learning process as a means of enhancing student literacy, communication, and creativity in the classroom. By emphasizing reading, writing, and revision, the In-School Playwriting Program improves literacy in the following target areas:
- Development of strong listening and speaking skills
- Improvement of vocabulary, grammar, and spelling
- Increased comprehension of text
- Increased ability to write expressively
- Increased ability to revise and edit writing
In 2005, only 30 percent of high school students in DC Public Schools (DCPS) scored at the proficient level in reading on standardized tests. In response, Young Playwrights’ Theater crafted a new playwriting curriculum that addresses and integrates the new DCPS English Language Arts Standards. Expanding its long-term partnership with Bell Multicultural High School to work with the entire 11th grade and faculty on this new curriculum, YPT’s model exemplifies the philosophy emphasized in these new standards and inherent in YPT’s work: learning an interactive writing process in the classroom as a means of creative self-expression is central to successful student learning.