YAWP

Women in veils are not silent.

For the past seven years it's been my privilege to direct for the YAWP Program and Playwriting Festival at Stony Brook Southampton college.

The heads of YAWP explain it best - 

The Young Artists and Writers Project (formerly the Young American Writers Project) is dedicated to mentoring middle and high school students in the development of creative expression and critical thinking through the writing and visual arts.

Sponsored by Stony Brook Southampton's MFA in Creative Writing and Literature and Southampton Arts, YAWP programs pair professional writers and writing teachers with high school and middle school students in a variety of innovative, inter-disciplinary writing workshops in area schools, as well as on Stony Brook's Southampton and Manhattan campuses, including:

Playwriting
Screenwriting
Poetry
Personal Essay
Fiction
Visual Arts

… all of which conclude with special projects and presentations, as well as potential vodcasts, blogs and/or publication in the YAWP Ezine.

The goals of YAWP include:
• To enhance critical thinking, collaboration and communications skills.
• To help each student find and develop his or her unique voice and point of view.
• To use creative expression as a way to solve problems and promote global awareness.
• To advance 21st century skills while supporting ELA requirements.
• To provide community outreach for Southampton Graduate Arts.
• To develop and support the next generation of writers, readers and artists.

YAWP school-based workshops are offered throughout the school year, and can be custom designed to fit the needs of an individual school. They can "push-in" to Creative Writing, English, Theatre or other academic classes, or they can be an extra-curricular or retreat program. School break workshops are offered on the Stony Brook Southampton and Manhattan campuses in the summer as well as during winter and spring breaks. YAWP programs can be particularly effective for at-risk students, or for those who find writing and communications skills challenging in the traditional academic environment.

Seven years.

Seven years of helping the voices of young writers come to life on the Avram stage. Seven years of rehearsals. Seven years of being privy to the inner most thoughts of the teenagers of the time.

Each year I'm in awe of the heartbeat of the teenagers who participate in this program. They're thoughtful. They're curious. They're compassionate. 

They want to leave this world better than they found it.

The cynics of the world scoff when I say this. They say...just wait until they hit adulthood. They won't be so idealistic then they say. They won't care so much then, they say.

I say they're wrong. 

I say this program teaches these teenagers how to think beyond their own orbit. How to put their words to good use - and harness their voice and power in a method that will stick with people. Resonate with people. Affect people.

This particular festival struck a chord with me.

I was asked to direct a play called The Hijab. It was about two sisters who are Iranian immigrants, one who wants to cover, and one who wants to shun all remnants of her life in Iran.

Women in veils are not silent.

That's a direct line from the show.

Women in veils are not silent.

Woah.

Right?

I mean, what a play to do in this political climate.

What a play to be written by a fourteen year old in this political climate. A fourteen year old, who IS NOT EVEN MUSLIM.

Not even Muslim.

When I asked her why she chose to write about this she said, I think sometimes are not always accepting as they are in my school. I think we need to embrace one another a little bit more.

She's thirteen, and she's thinking bigger than her own personal orbit.

She's thirteen, and she wanted to write about this. About religion. About family. About school. About acceptance.

It's heavy, and yet encouraging.

Yes, I'm encouraged by this young playwright, this young student of mine. Encouraged by the younger generations who have the compassion and room in their hearts to think beyond their own orbits. I'm encouraged by a younger generation who wants to change the world with pens and not swords. I'm encouraged by a younger generation who seems to be rooted in kindness. Peace. Love.

I'm reminded of the words of Edmund Burke - the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

And I say - it's refreshing to meet good teenagers who do everything in their power to put goodness back in this world.

Irrespective of your creed, race, and/or gender, there's one simple truth that still remains - we're all here, just trying to breathe same air and walk the same earth, and make something beautiful out of this mess we call life.