High School Playwrights All Grown Up

Anacostia Playhouse Presents Four Plays

WASHINGTON – To most, high school is the world of fun events, like prom, football games and the joy of first loves.  

Rarely, though, do adults have the chance to see a student’s outlook on the weighty issues of homelessness, depression and death.

High school playwright Quanisha Mitchell

Four high school students, however, are having their special stories on subjects from suicide to mental illness to pop-stars played out on the professional stage in plays that are guaranteed  to make audiences cry, laugh and reflect.

Their plays, which were selected from hundreds of others, will be performed by professional actors at a special free showing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10, at the Anacostia Playhouse.

The production titled, “New Writers Now! #nofilter,” features students Quanisha Mitchell, Nakia Greene, Lawrencia Odoms and China Warren, who all wrote

their plays through Young Playwrights Theater, a school program that teaches the art of writing.

The plays will be acted out in a stage reading, which is when the actors act out the play in front of an audience, without the set and wardrobe. This is a step that many professional playwrights must take to develop their work and get a sense of how audiences will respond.

“Our playwrights have such strong voice and important things to say that we know we just need to give them a platform to be heard,” said Nicole Jost, artistic director of Young Playwrights Theater.  “That’s why we’re calling this show #nofilter, because we want to showcase their visions in a way that is true and uncensored.

 “The students get to write about anything on their minds, no censorship. There are so many times where the students say ‘anything, I can write about anything?’” said Brigitte Moore, executive director of Young Playwrights. “… and it’s so powerful when the students are able to work with professionals.”

This production is particularly significant for Young Playwrights Theater, as it is in honor of Black History Month and the 20th anniversary of the company.

“Javon’s Dream,” written by Quanisha Mitchell, a junior at Woodrow Wilson High School, is about a homeless teenager who dreams of finding love and a home.

“I realized that a lot of teens are homeless nowadays,” Mitchell said. “So, I did some research and wrote about it.  The audience should expect a lot of funny and serious moments and some parts that will be shocking and make you a little teary-eyed.”

The second play, written by Nakia Greene, a junior at Bell Multicultural High School, is called “Despair.” Her play, described as a darkly comedic murder mystery, focuses on a group of students who get locked inside their boarding school after one of their classmates is murdered.

“These stories are pretty cool and it’s going to be really fun,” Moore said. “And plus, it is really important to come out a support these young people because they put a lot of work into them.”

Lawrencia Odoms, a senior Ballou High School, wrote a play called “P.S. Problems,” which takes a more serious tone.

The play centers around a female student living with a mental health issues who ends up at a metal hospital. Odom said she particularly liked working with the professional actors because the experience helped her develop the characters more.

High School playwright Nakia Greene

“The first time it was ever read by older people, I was super nervous,” Odom said, “but they loved it. I really thank them for it because the characters weren’t how I envisioned it in my head.  So, it really helped me, and they were excellent to work with.

“Saving Scarlett,” written by China Warren of Ballou High School, deals with a young lady who runs away from home and meets a pop star who helps her out.

Saving Scarlett, along with P.S. Problems, will be produced by Wild Women’s Theatre, who has a mission to showcase multiple dimensions of Black womanhood.

“It’s nice to be able to work and expand with people that are a lot younger than us and to see the things that their dealing with that we probably weren’t or were, dealing with at their age,” said Farah Harris, co-founder of Wild Women’s Theatre. 

“We’re consistently impressed by the insight of the youth, the humor through all their characters and all of the multilayers. It’s a great feeling to be able to bring their work to light.”

 “New Writers Now! #nofilter” will feature a pre-show reception at 6:30 p.m. with free snacks and drinks, until the show starts. There will be a talkback with the playwrights after the performance.

For more information, visit www.youngplaywrightstheater.org.