Lori Pitts lives in Capitol Hill and is a theatre artist/curriculum and creativity coordinator, which means she has the coolest title of anyone I know. (My creativity could use some coordination, at least.) We chatted about the social power of theater, expanding horizons in DC, and that most blissful of summer spots: Eastern Market.
730DC: Hi Lori! So you’re from Texas. How’d you end up here?
Lori: DC has a strong theatre community, and because I do so many different jobs within theatre, it was important to me to have lots of options. My main passion is Theatre of the Oppressed, which uses theatre techniques to empower people to explore injustices in their lives and take action to create social change. DC has many social justice issues so I thought this was a perfect place for me to be. What finalized my decision was the fact that my college roommate and best friend lived here already and had a room opening up in her apartment!
730DC: Having a friend really helps—I wouldn’t have been able to move here without the friends I had here. And they show you cool places to go!
Lori: I love Eastern Market, both the market and the neighborhood. It’s a great date spot and has lots of great restaurants. My favorite is Nana Thai…that IS a hidden gem. I also like The Yards Park. If you haven’t been yet, make sure you hang out there this summer!
730DC: The theater scene is great, as you said, but it can be intimidating for people who don’t know where to start, plus they assume it’s expensive. Where should readers look for an entry point?
Lori: DCis full of great theatre and almost every theatre has ticket deals for those under 30. Check out Theatre Alliance, Forum Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, and Young Playwrights Theatre to name a few.
730DC: Where else are you hanging out these days?
Lori: I wish more people saw the value of NE and SE. Often those letters immediately turn people off but these areas are just as varied and cool as NW. H St, Eastern Market, Union Market, Anacostia Arts Center, the Frederick Douglass House, The Yards Park…I could go on and on with awesome places in these neighborhoods. I wish people would branch out from DuPont and U St.
730DC: Oh, 100%. I’ve lived in NE almost my entire time here in DC and loved it. How do you stay connected to your community?
Lori: Through my work. One place I work is Reach Incorporated, which develops confident, grade-level readers and capable leaders by training teens to teach younger students, creating academic benefit for all involved. What makes this program unique is the fact that we purposefully seek out teens who are underperforming. I teach in Reach’s after-school program at Eastern High School and also write the curriculum. Our teens are even published children’s book authors and I am working on adapting those books into plays.
I also work with Young Playwrights Theatre, teaching in-school playwriting sessions that honor the voices of DC’s youth. I am about to lead I have also done some teaching and performing work around Black Lives Matter with them.
In addition to being an actor, playwright, teaching artist, and director with theatres in the DMV, I am also a Theatre of the Oppressed facilitator, known as a joker. This summer I am doing a project with my Reach teens on a topic of their choosing and I am planning to lead a project with a group of homeless people living in apartments owned by my church.
730DC: That’s great that you get to engage not just aesthetically but also politically through your work. So I have to ask: what do you see as the biggest political issues confronting young people, in particular, in DC?
Lori: The Black Lives Matter movement is of courseone that is very important to me. As the people who are starting to fill the workforce and have our ideas be the next up-and-coming changes, I think it’s important that we address this issue head on, especially in our nation’s capital. Racism pervades every structure of our society so it won’t go away without asking the hard questions and actively making changes. I think our age group has the vigor it takes to keep fighting for this cause. We also have the unique standpoint of being far enough removed from segregation to not be jaded but close enough to know that it is still present. I think that makes our generation powerful.
730DC: That’s a lot of hard work. How do you make it through the day?
Lori: Making meaningful and positive changes to the world I live in is invigorating. I feel good knowing I might leave the world a little better than I found it. But yes, you need a lot of Netflix, too.!
730DC: Reading anything great?
Lori: I’m currently reading The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs. I usually prefer fiction but this was a gift from my boss and it highlights how our perceptions of people can be so different from the reality and that reality is so multifaceted
730DC: Last but not least: Any questions for readers?
Lori: No questions, but keep your eye out for the final performance of my teens at the end of the summer. I’ll make sure to post the details on 730DC!
Interview by Hayden Higgins.
Kaitlin Walker is a wonderful friend and is now a middle school teacher at the Washington School for Girls, where she teaches science. She and I are going to canoeing or kayaking in the river soon. See, Kaitlin! It’s published, now we have to do it!
730DC: You’re from Alabama. How did you end up here?
Kaitlin: I got a job! I applied to an AmeriCorps organization that has a team in DC (Notre Dame Mission Volunteers) and they placed me at the Washington School for Girls. I’d visited a lot growing up to see family friends, so I was pretty comfortable with the city.
730DC: There are places you come as a visitor and places you get to know as a resident. Any hidden gems you’ve found?
Kaitlin: I’m not sure it’s a hidden gem, but I love Capitol Hill Books in Eastern Market. Not the cheapest used books in the city, but the notes the owner leaves on the shelves make it worth a purchase every now and again.
730DC: I do love that place–I got my copy of Calvino’s if on a winter’s night a traveler there, in part because of the owner’s note. About that job…
Kaitlin: I teach 6th-8th grade science at the Washington School for Girls, an independent Catholic girls school in Southeast DC that serves girls who live in Wards 7 and 8 and neighboring Prince George’s County. I’m lucky that I get to work in such a small school where I have the same students every year and have gotten to know them and their quirks really well. And science is the most fun to teach! I get to do cool experiments almost every day and take tons of field trips. I just got back from a 3 day trip with our 7th grade to the Chesapeake Bay where we dredged for oysters, crabbed, and played in the mud.
730DC: That sounds amazing. What do you learn from the kids?
Kaitlin: Current slang, handshakes, and dance moves…I’ve learned to keep an open mind. Even though I have known some of them for almost three years now they still surprise me almost every day. And more than anything, that kids are kids. No matter where you grew up.
730DC: Many of our readers haven’t been east of the river, but you’re there every day.
Kaitlin: I wish more people cared to know about DC east of the river. I know a lot of people who feel like they never have a reason to go to SE. On the flip side, I have a lot of students who only go the other direction for field trips. Go! There are lots of things going on. THEARC is a great place to start. They have concerts, movie screenings, dance classes, art shows, and more.
730DC: You’ve helped the 730DC community with that suggestion. How can the 730DC community help you?
Kaitlin: I just finished The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and am starting Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. So I’m going to need a lighthearted novel next if anyone has any suggestions. And since I am a teacher, I do have the summer off. I’m looking to volunteer and would love ideas.
730DC: Thanks Kaitlin!
Interview by Hayden Higgins.