This spring, the latest installment of Young Playwrights’ Theater’s (YPT) social justice performance series will be a three-part web series exploring the complexities of race in theater from the perspective of young, Black theater artists. Silence is Violence: The Future of the Field is written and performed by Autumn Angelettie, Ayanna Fowler, and Jaucqir LaFond, and directed by YPT Artistic Director Farah Lawal Harris. All three episodes will be available to stream for free on Friday, March 26, 2021, on YPT’s YouTube Channel. YPT is currently accepting donations in support of this project and YPT’s larger mission to inspire young people to realize the power of their own voices. Supporters can reserve tickets and make donations here.
In the fall of 2020, Artistic Director Farah Lawal Harris put out a call to students of Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts to audition and submit writing samples to be part of YPT’s Silence is Violence 2021 project. Howard theater students Autumn Angelettie, Ayanna Fowler, and Jaucqir LaFond answered the call and hit the ground running in a devising process from which they have crafted a narrative to be told over the course of three short episodes.
“The cornerstone of YPT’s Silence is Violence series is the voices of our youth front and center,” says Farah Lawal Harris. “In producing this year’s Silence is Violence, we wanted to make sure that Ayanna, Autumn, and Jaucqir had the support they needed to really take ownership of this project and the message they want to share with the world.”
In Silence is Violence: The Future of the Field, three Black characters in the early stages of their careers in theater must grapple with racism, tokenism, and ethics while collaborating on a theater project commissioned by a white-led theater company. The production was filmed virtually over weeks of intentional direction by Farah Lawal Harris, carefully crafted editing by Anthony Amos, and sound design by Kevin Alexander.
The web series speaks to the moment of introspection that many theaters are experiencing as they work toward developing antiracist and anti-oppressive cultures backstage, onstage, and in the audience. It also introduces the much-needed point of view of young Black artists who are just beginning their journey in the industry.
“More than anything, I hope that this [production] encourages the audience to not only begin a dialogue about the topics discussed but to also spend some time conducting internal analysis about their own relationship to everyday oppression in marginalized communities,” says Jaucqir LaFond.
About Silence is Violence
Since its inception in 2015, Silence is Violence has been YPT’s most immediate and direct route of addressing social justice issues affecting Washington, DC area youth through performance and community dialogue.
Each Silence is Violence performance centers the voices of our young people and the issues that affect them the most. The series has addressed issues of police brutality and the resulting murders of Black people at the hands of police, immigration policies that abuse the rights of and negatively affect the lives of immigrants and naturalized citizens, LGBTQ+ stories, culture and pride, urban environmentalism, gentrification, and the experiences of displaced young, Black mothers.
Silence is Violence serves as a means for young people to actively communicate their concerns through targeted dramatic writing workshops and community partnerships. With these young people’s permission, YPT shapes their words into a theatrical production featuring professional performers, furthering YPT’s vision that young people’s voices are not only significant but also powerful.