Remembering Her YPTW Roots: Elizabeth Braaten Palmieri

Elizabeth Braaten Palmieri has a dream job. That’s because she is co-founder and Artistic Director of the Greenhouse Theatre Project, which just wrapped up its fourth season. As she looks back at the life experiences that led her to this success, there is no doubt that the Young People’s Theater Workshop (YPTW), played a role.

In the 25-year history of YPTW, many students and teachers have collaborated to make memorable experiences for both audiences and participants alike. We asked Elizabeth, a past YPTW student and teacher, to share some of her memories in her six-year (three years as a student and three as a teacher) stint with the program.

Writing, Creativity & Improv

A particular memory that stood out was Elizabeth’s first experience writing a play with her group during the workshop. “The play was called ‘Which Mountain?’ It took place on a train; all these random characters were meeting and interacting with one another on their way up a mountain. My character was a hairdresser from Jersey.”

The creation of the show is group based, and allows the students to use their imaginations while working together to support each other’s ideas and create a storyline. The magic happens when they begin to rehearse and perform for one another: “I think that is an important lesson for kids who are developing who they are in the world and theatre offers that stage of acceptance. Risk-taking is a huge part of performing and if we can empower kids at a young age to be themselves and put it all out there – we are helping shape the people they will be.”

Teaching for YPTW

Braaten Palmieri’s positive experiences led her back to YPTW as a teacher during college and after graduating. The appeal was largely the format of the program, which left an impression: “It was a nice balance – a laid-back approach to collaborating with kids, with the pressure and deadlines of performance at the end. That is how I approach my work with my company even today- I allow a lot of room for ‘play’ in order to format a process that initiates artistic growth. I want actors and artists to take ownership of the work they do in collaborative way and YPT planted that for me.”

GreenHouse Theatre Project

In 2011, Elizabeth co-founded a professional theater company called the GreenHouse Theatre Project, in Columbia, Missouri, with her creative partner Emily Adams. Rooted in collaborative, experimental, innovative work, the company performs in untraditional theatrical spaces such as art galleries, yoga studios and rooftops. Braaten Palmieri’s role as Artistic Director involves writing original works, adapting classics, acting, directing and training. Having just completed its 2014-15 season, the company is next planning on traveling to Scotland to present their work at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

With such a bright future, Elizabeth still remembers her roots: “YPT was the first time I had worked in a collective to collaboratively create a piece with a team to perform. Little did I know that that kind of devised work would inspire and ignite my future work with GreenHouse Theatre Project.”

Many thanks to Elizabeth for sharing her stories with us, and we wish this year’s classes of YPTW well as they begin the first session!