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Drama in the black box: Young Playwrights Theater is spreading the power of storytelling

The theater program is celebrating 25 years by expanding their program to college students.

LARGO, Md. — The theater at Prince George’s Community College is a safe space for Lauren Tobias and her classmates.  

"You can be yourself without judgement," Tobias said. 

Young Playwrights Theater (YPT) offers a chance for the kids to express themselves freely through creative writing. Their words are lifted off the page and given life through professional actors.  

The class is the first of its kind, with a play writing workshop offered at the school through YPT.

"Storytelling is very powerful, and very necessary," Brigitte Winter, executive director of YPT, said.

For 25 years, the Young Playwrights Theater helped bring that power of storytelling to students in elementary, middle and high schools. Now, they are breathing new life into the program by expanding it to young adults at Prince George’s Community College

"It’s truly wonderful to sit back and watch a young person be celebrated," Winter said.  

"The other day someone said, ‘you look like you can be a playwright,' and I said, ‘that’s so funny because I just wrote a play!’" Tobias said. 

Tobias and Jade Hull are among the first four students to take the semester-long course that pushed them out of their comfort zones and gave them a new-found confidence.  

"No Jade," Hull said repeating what she tells herself, "you can do this, you’re not a boring person, you have your own creative ideas." 

"We absolutely believe that young people are inherently brilliant," YPT teacher Jared Shamberger said. "Our organization exists to share that brilliance with the world."

The students shared their work at their first performance in PGCC’s black box theater in early December.  

"We want to create space that young people can express whatever is important to them, so they don’t seek solace in other types of distractions," Shamberger said. 

The class is more than just acting -- it serves as a life lesson that the young people said they will take with them after graduation.  

"I’ll be more out there and demanding for my work to be heard and my voice shared," Hull said.

"I’m more talented than I thought I was, not to be cocky or anything," laughed Tobias.

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