Language and art are separately, very powerful entities.
However, when combined, they present The Young Playwrights' Theater (YPT), a non-profit organization in Washington D.C., that's dedicated to arts education and helping the city's youth find their voices.
Through interactive activities and live productions written by students and performances by professional actors, each participant is encouraged to share both their truth and story in their own way.
Since 1995, YPT has served more than 11,000 students and produced 300 plays. And, with a recent demand in programming, YPT has added something different -- a book -- to its list of creative works.
"Write to Dream" is YPT's first publication.
I recently spoke with Brigitte Pribnow Moore, YPT executive director, about the influence behind "Write to Dream."
She said interest in the book has included phone calls from schools, art programs, teachers and parents wanting to know how to get YPT to their students.
"We just do not have the capacity to grow quick enough to reach all of these students that need our programs," Pribnow Moore said. "Write to Dream" is a collection of 30 of some of the best plays that our students have written over the span of our 17 years, and includes curriculums teachers could use to integrate our program into the classrooms."
The goal of YPT is to reach and encourage as many students as possible, as well as to eventually be able to say "yes" to anyone requesting its services. "Write to Dream" is a big step in that direction.
"We want to use the book to share these amazing stories with the world, but we also hope that we are providing tools to inspire other playwrights around the world," Pribow Moore said. "All of the plays featured in "Write to Dream" have been written by students who share the passion for creative expression.
For many, these plays are a way to tell real life stories, such as "Society Un-Just" by Shannon Marshall, which focuses on gentrification and its impact on the community.
Marshall's play was loosely based on real life events surrounding the sale of her grandmother's Adams Morgan home.
"My play started out as a school project, but I decided that I needed to write about something that mattered to me, something I'm passionate about and gentrification is that thing," she said. "A lot of people look at it as 'just change' but it's actually a problem and I wanted to voice that to the people."
The pages of "Write to Dream" are filled with stories about everyday issues that youth of all ages can relate to, including discrimination, sibling rivalry -- and even the occasional super hero. The book's content is divided into four parts: plays for all ages, plays for ages 13 and up, plays for ages 16 and older, and the curriculum, which provides the tools needed to inspire playwrights like those featured in the book.
Amber Faith Walton, a YPT student of two years is the author of "Changing Tides: Judge Me Gently." She was looking for a creative outlet when she first moved to the District, and through her school, discovered YPT.
"Getting into college was a big milestone in my life and YPT gave me the opportunities and resources that helped me get into college," said Amber, who wrote about her play and YPT experience for a college essay, for which she was granted a scholarship.
It doesn't just stop there, YPT is encouraging the future of all of its students in different ways.
"YPT has been a major influence in my decision to go to college and major in theater," said Nora Spellane, author of "The Elevator." "[YPT's] teaching artist showed me that I could have a career in the theatre -- people actually making a living in the theatre, and not just as actors but as many other things."
Paul McCoyer, a student at Deal Middle School in the District, wrote a play titled "Money, Money, Money," which was produced by YPT and included in "Write to Dream."
"YPT made me appreciate writing more, they made it more fun for me," McCoyer said. "Now, when I have to write something for school, I find a way to make it funny so that it isn't boring."
One thing for certain is that YPT has been a major impact in the lives of its young students, as it teaches more than theatre, which shows in their numerous accomplishments.
All of these students hope one day, to be able to give back to YPT.
While "Write to Dream" is a first for the Young Playwrights' Theater, it doesn't seem to be the last, having opened the doors for so many deserving students.
When I think of the title "Write to Dream," I am convinced that we have become empowered through the art of playwrighting!" –Cameron Byrd (YPT Alumni)