Virtual Community: Connecting Artists Across 524 Miles and Beyond

by Brigitte Pribnow Moore

in National Conference

Post image for Virtual Community: Connecting Artists Across 524 Miles and Beyond

(This post is part of the 2014 TCG National Conference: Crossing Borders {Theatre | Technology} blog salon, curated by Jacqueline E. Lawton.) 

JACQUELINE LAWTON: First, please tell us a bit about yourself and your organization.

BRIGITTE PRIBNOW MOORE: As the only professional theater in Washington, DC dedicated entirely to arts education, Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT) seeks to create social justice by providing all young people with the opportunity to realize the power and value of their own voices. By teaching students to express themselves through the art of playwriting, YPT develops students’ language skills, and empowers them with the creativity, confidence and critical thinking skills they need to succeed in school and beyond. YPT honors its students by involving them in a high-quality artistic process where they feel simultaneously respected and challenged and by engaging professional theater artists in producing student plays for the community.

By offering the opportunity for creative self-expression, YPT encourages students to take ownership of their education, their choices and their futures. YPT shares student-written work with local, national and international audiences to provide a window into young people’s lives and promote respect for young artists. By experiencing their work brought to life for their communities, students realize their ability to affect the world around them.

You can read more about YPT at yptdc.org.

JL: Next, please share the title and description of your breakout session.

BPM: Our session is titled “Virtual Community: Connecting Artists Across 524 Miles and Beyond.” In the modern world, it doesn’t take trains or cars to cross boundaries—it takes digital technology. With support from a 2013 TCG Do It grant, DC-based Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT) teamed up with Detroit poetry organization InsideOut Literary Arts Project and filmmakers Meridian Hill Pictures to span just such a barrier using iPads and Google Hangouts. Dubbed “The 524 Project” after the 524 miles between Detroit and DC, this dynamic collaboration brought together two classrooms of high school students for a cross-disciplinary curriculum that culminated in a multimedia presentation that was live-streamed between the two cities. By breaking down the barriers between live performance and digital sharing, this coalition of arts organizations empowered youth in DC and Detroit to disrupt the dominant narratives surrounding their cities and to forge connections across a great distance. During our session, we shared The 524 Project, inviting people to learn from our successes and failures and to repurpose the strategies and tools we developed to pursue their own goals.

JL: Now, what inspired this breakout session?

BPM: A driving philosophy of The 524 Project is radical transparency toward benefiting the national theater and arts education fields, and our session at the TCG National Conference was a comprehensive, interactive, multimedia presentation about The 524 Project, with an opportunity for theaters across the country to learn about the successes and challenges we encountered in piloting this innovative program.

JL: Finally, what do you hope participants learned from this breakout session?

BPM: Throughout the session, we explored the following key questions:

  • What happens when we break down traditional disciplinary and organizational barriers toward a collaboratively imagined artistic mission? What can we accomplish together that we can’t accomplish alone?
  • How can we empower young people to disrupt the dominant narratives of their own communities? How can we complicate the “single stories” of cities like Detroit and DC?
  • What constitutes a meaningful interaction? How is technology both a connector and an isolator?
  • Can mobile devices and/or tablets be a tool for facilitating cross-cultural exchange, collaboration, creation, performance and promotion of a traditionally non-digital art form — all through using free software?
  • How do we build and sustain a national audience on a new media platform like tumblr?

Participants hopefully left the session feeling inspired and open to new directions for their companies, with a focus on how they can partner with other organizations to establish collaborations that transcend competition and use art to positively impact their communities.


Brigitte Pribnow Moore, Executive Director, Young Playwrights’ Theater
Brigitte Pribnow Moore has a decade of experience in nonprofit management, arts administration, fundraising and strategic communications in the DC region. Prior to joining YPT, Brigitte worked as a Legislative Director in Annapolis, and served as Artistic Director of The Unmentionable Theatre, a Baltimore-based company founded by a group of University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) alumni dedicated to producing new plays with social and political weight. Brigitte holds a BFA in Theatre from UMBC, summa cum laude, a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University and a Masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University. Through the Georgetown Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC), she has worked on pro bono consulting projects for organizations throughout Greater Washington, including Compass, Deloitte LLP, HandsOn Greater DC Cares and Equality Maryland. She continues to work with CSIC as an Alumni Instructor for Georgetown’s Cause Consulting course, mentoring cohorts of graduate students as they implement strategic communications plans for nonprofit clients throughout the DC region. Brigitte is the proud recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award from the UMBC Alumni Association, the 2013 Outstanding Student Award from Georgetown University and the 2012 Georgetown Social Impact Award for her commitment to creating positive social change as a communicator. In her spare time, she reads and writes obsessively and bakes a lot of cakes.


FrankFrank Cervarich, Deputy Director, Young Playwrights’ Theater
Frank is an arts administrator with experience in development, communications and office management, as well as an actor, puppeteer, improviser, playwright and teacher. From 2011 to 2012, he served in a kindergarten classroom at Malcolm X Elementary School in Southeast DC through City Year, an AmeriCorps program, providing mentorship and tutoring to his students. After completing City Year, he served as a Research/Program Associate at the Migrant Legal Action Program. He is a founding member of Pointless Theatre, and currently serves as Pointless’ co-Director of Communications. He has written two plays (The Solar System Show and Imagination Meltdown Adventure) that have been produced, and has toured DC with The Solar System Show. Imagination Meltdown Adventure won the Director’s Pick of the Fringe Award in 2012. He has performed at the National Theater, Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, the Mansion at Strathmore, The Puppet Co., the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, The Writer’s Center, GALA Hispanic Theatre and in the Capital Fringe Festival. He is a graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park with a BA in English and Theater.


conf13_jacqueline_lawton

Jacqueline E. Lawton received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener fellow. Her plays include Anna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Ira Aldridge: Love Brothers Serenade, Mad Breed and Our Man Beverly Snow. She has received commissions from Active Cultures Theater, Discovery Theater, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History, Round House Theatre and Theater J. A 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color, she has been nominated for the Wendy Wasserstein Prize and a PONY Fellowship from the Lark New Play Development Center. She resides in Washington DC and is a member of Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena. jacquelinelawton.com