Having come up in the New York theater scene, performing on Broadway and acting in sitcoms as a teenager, National Poetry Slam champion and YouthSpeaks artistic director Marc Bamuthi Joseph eventually decided that he wanted to use his gift of gab for something other than mainstream commercialism. Since moving to the Bay Area in 1998, the now-31-year-old poet has produced such works as Stand-Up Tragedy and the Tony Award-winning The Tap Dance Kid, the "verse-based theater" piece Word Becomes Flesh structured as a series of letters from a father to his unborn son and Scourge, a hip-hop-driven ensemble work that looks at social disparities and sordid economic conditions in postcolonial Haiti. His newest work, The Breaks, derives from Jeff Chang's book Can't Stop, Won't Stop, which Joseph cites as one of the great canonical texts for the hip-hop generation. This year, he was awarded a United States Artists Fellowship, which is granted to the nation's fifty most talented individuals from all disciplines. He also taught a free youth poetry workshop at the Urban Services YMCA, in which students looked at the violence happening in East Oakland and tried to redirect that energy and anxiety to make powerful art.