2016 Pride Youth Theater Alliance Conference
By: Tom Medina-Castrejón
I was not planning on going to the conference, because I’d never gone on any trip without my family before. But I’m so glad my mom pushed me anyway. After arriving at the Philadelphia airport, being patted down, and texting my mom a hundred times, I finally boarded the plane, with MR and MJ, the facilitators of Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ Queer Theater Workshop. From the moment I had woken up that day, I knew I was going on an adventure. When we landed in Memphis, Tennessee, my legs were all wobbly. Partly because I’d been in the sky for two hours, but partly also because we were so close. Who were these people going to be? Would I fit in?
We arrived at the hotel, went for a stroll to find something to eat (fried pork and some sweet tea), and then went to the orientation. We played some fun games, and I learned what exactly this conference was about. The next day we focused on racial justice. We went to the National Civil Rights Museum, spoke to Mrs. Jacqueline Smith who had been boycotting outside for over 28 years, listened to an amazing panel of local activists in the community and got to witness an unintentionally educational interaction between two panelists, and afterwards broke into groups to discuss what we had learned and what we had felt that day, regarding issues of racial justice. An all-Black group, non-black PoC group, all-white group, and a mixed group, of which I was part. The next day I helped facilitate MR and MJ’s session on the importance of being trauma-aware when leading workshops involving queer youth. Next I went to the Youth Forum, but sadly there were not many young people (under 18). During block C I went to Abe Rybeck’s ART Swap session, regarding what all our theater groups were doing, what problems we’d run into, and possible solutions. It was very informative for me, and I came away feeling inspired. Afterwards we all saw Q&A perform their awesome and at times hilarious play. The last day, we say Thinking Out Loud’s beautiful and powerful performance, which I feel privileged to have seen. And it was then time to end the conference.
This conference was a very positive experience for me. I learned that I am capable of going out of my comfort-zone and getting through it. The people there were so friendly and welcoming. I met some lovely Latinx people with whom I got to talk about my heritage about, and it was a wonderful experience to feel acknowledged and seen. I am immensely grateful for whoever put together all the lists with everyone’s name, pronouns, and contact information. It made it so much easier for me to approach people despite my social anxiety. I did not expect so many hugs when it was time to say goodbye. And to whoever provided food for us, thank you so much, it was delicious. I’m really happy I was given the opportunity to go to this PYTA conference, and I hope to go again next year. Seeing all those people there so clearly passionate about their work gave me just the boost of energy that I needed. I’m now equipped with more experience, contacts, and knowledge. I feel that I can go out there and tell the stories that are inside of me, and perhaps help others do the same.
About the conference