Young Playwrights Festival

YPF is an in-depth program that teaches and encourages educators to use playwriting techniques as a complementary educational tool, and in our partner schools, most teachers in the program spend approximately 6 weeks of a 36-week curriculum using these tools. 90% of the schools served by YPF are schools in the poverty bracket as defined by the federal government.

Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s Young Playwrights Festival In-School Program places professional playwrights in CPS classrooms in some of the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods to promote literacy and writing skills, foster critical thinking, hone decision-making skills and build self-confidence. Through reading, scene study, creative writing exercises, role-play and class discussions, YPF’s experienced teaching artists introduce students to the essentials of playwriting as well as best practices in the annual play competition. Students capture their own stories and explore their cultures and communities by writing one-act plays. During the residency, playwrights inspire teens to become more confident writers by focusing on story and structure rather than grammatical correctness. Students learn how to participate in peer constructive criticism, building life skills such as courage, resilience and compassionate communication. At the end of each 12-session classroom residency, a team of professional actors and directors perform select excerpts of student plays for the school community. A moderated discussion further encourages everyone present to engage with the work and helping their peers to improve their plays.

The ultimate goal of YPF is to make the arts a means of delivering the core language arts and literacy curriculum. The process of playwriting in the classroom brings into play all young people’s natural curiosity, creativity, energy, and initiative. The process allows for removal of cultural barriers between students and teachers. It makes learning fun and empowers individuals and gives self worth to their own experiences, their own points of view. Because the students can control the outcome of the story, they learn of the power of words and ideas; indeed, for many it is the first time that they see they have power over their own lives through the choices they make on the page.

During the most recent school year, the Young Playwrights Festival reached more than 1,500 students. 480 scripts were submitted. Through the Festival, Pegasus has reached more than 116,000 teenagers and received and evaluated over 16,000 original scripts. Approximately 1,700 students have attended free matinee performances of the Festival plays.