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DC's Young Playwrights' Theater Receives Award from First Lady Michelle Obama

Young Playwrights' Theater (YPT) was recognized with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by First Lady Michelle Obama at a private White House ceremony today.

Formerly the Coming Up Taller Award, the NAHYP award is administered by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The award honors community-based arts and humanities programs that make a marked difference in the lives of their participants by improving academic scores and graduation rates, enhancing life skills, and developing positive relationships with peers and adults. Chosen from a pool of more than 400 nominations and 50 finalists, Young Playwrights' Theater was honored by the First Lady for its innovative, in-depth After-School Playwriting Program, in which students collaborate to create a play based on literary works and their own stories. The award is the highest honor arts education programs can receive in the United States.

Accepting the award from Mrs. Obama on behalf of Young Playwrights' Theater was Heidy Lovo, an 18-year-old graduate of the program, who was accompanied to the White House by David Andrew Snider, Producing Artistic Director and CEO of YPT. "Standing with the First Lady of the United States in the White House and accepting this award was amazing," said Heidy. "It makes me feel really good to know that people care what I have to say, and that what I have to say can change the world." Also speaking at the event was Mariana Pavón Sánchez, another YPT student, who spoke about YPT's effect on her life and the lives of her fellow students. As a tenth grader at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Mariana participated in YPT's In-School Playwriting Program. Mariana offers the following advice to other young people who are interested in playwriting: "Don't be afraid to express yourself through writing, even if it is something small."

"This award recognizes the impact we are having on student learning and shows our students that important people are listening to what they have to say - and caring about who they are, and who they can be," said Snider. As part of the award, YPT will receive $10,000 to support its programming and engage more young people from the community.

Young Playwrights' Theater is currently celebrating its 15th Birthday Season with the opening of its 2010 Express Tour, a traveling production of new student plays, including one created in collaboration with the Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Program. This play, The Good Neighbor, was developed through interactive writing workshops with clients and staff of five nonprofit providers (Martha's Table, District Alliance for Safe Housing, Community of Hope, N Street Village, and Samaritan Inns), as well as with students and teachers at five public schools. The play will tour as part of the Express Tour throughout metro-Washington in November and December to public schools, theaters, children's hospitals, and nursing homes, to spark greater support for and awareness of issues facing the homeless. Public performances will be held November 3 through 6 at 8 p.m. at GALA Hispanic Theatre free of charge. There will also be a free performance immediately following the Help the Homeless Walkathon at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 20 at Discovery Theater at the Smithsonian Institution.

This project with Fannie Mae continues a YPT tradition of collaborating with theaters, museums, and other institutions to create timely works, highlighting the voices of DC students in some of Washington's most prestigious venues. YPT has partnered with the Smithsonian Institution, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the White House Historical Association.

For more information on Young Playwrights' Theater, visit

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