Category Archives: Theater

Nano-Interview with Julie Lichtenberg of The Performance Project

Julie Lichtenberg of The Performance ProjectName: Julie Lichtenberg
Organization: The Performance Project
Title: Artistic Director
Artistic Genre: Theater
Years in the Field: 35

What do you do at The Performance Project?
With First Generation: I teach physical theater and work with groups of young adults to form an ensemble and create devised theater. Then we perform the pieces that we’ve created on college campuses, in theaters and other places. I also bring artists in to train with the ensemble and help develop the performances.  I schedule performances, fundraise, coordinate, work with interns, plan meals, plan sleepovers and retreats, transport, plan and host family events in collaboration with First Gen youth, go on field trips, celebrate birthdays and graduations.  I also teach and/or coordinate our Visual Arts programing.

Why do you do what you do?
Because I am always learning and being inspired by the First Generation community. We managed to create a little place that is caring, nurturing, creative, and fun, and we all dream big together.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Sitting in the First Gen circle, talking and laughing is what comes easiest to me. I have never thought of this as “work.”  This is what I’ve always been driven to do as person and as an artist, and it’s taken different forms throughout the years. So I would say, I’m breathing, not working. But it’s not easy, because of what we have to do to keep it going.

What challenges you in this work?
Over the years, a big challenge has been, having to explain the many layers of our artistic community to someone who might only understand things in terms of distinct and separate categories.  That’s why I’ve been so grateful that there is finally the term, ”creative youth development,” which encompasses so much of what we do. Not all, but much of it. Also a big challenge is that sadly, we recently lost our home-base in Springfield, and that has been really difficult.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
More than one community engages with The Performance Project. Here’s some examples: First Gen youth have described First Gen as a safe space, fun, and second family. That First Gen supports them pursue their dreams. Their families say First Gen is a big support. People who come to our performances say they are moved and inspired, and often provoked to think about things. We have college interns who give a lot and learn a lot with us.

How do you blow off steam?
Watch movies. Workout. Laugh. Cry.

What do you create in your free time?
I write

Whose work in the creative youth development field do you admire and why?
Everett Company because they seem to be a truly inter-generational arts community. I admire their artistic work and their as their commitment to truth-telling and liberation.

Seen any good movies lately?
Moonlight

4 Mass Groups Named National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award Finalists

 

Boston City Singers performing in North Cambridge

Four MCC-funded programs have been chosen among the 50 finalists for the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Congratulations to BalletRox, Boston City Singers, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, and The Theater Offensive, Inc. for achieving their Finalist Certificate of Excellence – a testament to the outstanding Creative Youth Development work happening in the Commonwealth, and testimony to all of those committed to working with youth to achieve social change through the arts, humanities, and sciences.

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, given by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, is the nation’s highest honor for out-of-school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people, particularly those from underserved communities. This award recognizes and supports excellence in programs that open new pathways to learning, self-discovery, and achievement. Each year, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards recognize 12 outstanding programs in the United States, from a wide range of urban and rural settings.

See the full release.

Innovation in Action: Three Case Studies from the Intersections of Arts and Social Justice

Innovation in Action coverHow can creative change makers walk their talk and more effectively enact the change they want to see in the world? What do innovation and adaptive change look like for organizations that have social change as their core mission? A collection of profiles released this month as part of EmcArts’ Innovation Labs explores these questions in their publication, “Innovation in Action: Three Case Studies from the Intersections of Arts and Social Justice.”

Featuring Massachusetts’ own The Theater Offensive, as well as Alternate ROOTS, and Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, this publication examines the contours, possibilities and limitations of innovation and adaptive change at the intersection of arts and social justice.

The Theater Offensive entered the Innovation Lab to design a national organizing model to support and encourage Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) youth theaters nationally through
the Pride Youth Theater Alliance (PYTA). PYTA’s mission is to “connect and support queer youth theater organizations, programs, and professionals committed to empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied (LGBTQA) youth in North America.” Through the Innovation Lab process, the The Theater Offensive team explored these questions:

  1. How can youth leadership be operationally central to PYTA, and
  2. How can the national PYTA network take advantage of the capacities of the locally grounded organization (The Theater Offensive)?

Download the full publication.

Youth Showcase at IBA on January 16

Charge up for the new year. On January 16, 2014 Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion hosts La Lengua del Poder (The Language of Power), a showcase of young people freeing their voices through visual art, theater, music, movement, and poetry. Free. 6-9pm. Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, 85 West Newton St., Boston. Part of the YouthReach 20th anniversary celebration.

La Lenqua Del Poder event flyer

Impact: A Two-Way Street

Kate McGuire and Daryl backstage at the Colonial
Kate McGuire and Daryl backstage at the Colonial

Pittsfield’s Juvenile Resource Center (JRC), a collaboration between the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office and the Pittsfield Public Schools, provides education, casework, counseling, and employment services to young people at high risk of dropping out of school. With the help of YouthReach funding, Berkshire Theatre Group (BTG) launched a partnership in 2012 with the JRC, using theatre tools to build confidence and communication skills while placing the young people in jobs throughout Pittsfield’s Colonial Theatre. Kate McGuire, Artistic Director and CEO of Berkshire Theatre Group, reflects on the partnership’s first year:

In the theatre, we learn to listen. For me, I was able to hear and understand the nature of these kids’ lives and learn about the challenges they face minute to minute.

At the beginning, there was so much noise.  They were loud, and so aggressive towards each other in their language and sometimes, physically. By the end of the semester, we all learned to attend to each other, to listen more carefully. Order and calm and a real sense of joy set in.

The first week of the program, we went to see a movie. It was a disaster.  I was amazed they didn’t get thrown out as they could not keep quiet, keep still, or keep their hands off each other.

Over the course of six months, we used actor-training exercises to encourage each young person to find new tools of expression and at the same time, sharpen our awareness of ourselves as part of an ensemble, a community.  Meanwhile, BTG staff worked with each participant’s interests and ambitions to build custom internship experiences for each.

In the final week of this first year, we all went out to dinner. The youth were polite, well spoken, and we might as well have been celebrating Christmas. There was such a warmth and genuine care among us all.

We had accomplished something remarkable, and we were all aware that each one of us had changed, grown, and learned to care about each other and each others’ lives in profound ways.

The Colonial Theatre must be comfortable for everyone to walk through. We have succeeded with these young people.  By the end, the kids were not a part of the BTG. They were integrated into the entire organization. Three of them continued through the summer:  one in the box office, one onstage for Peter Pan, and one providing technical support. JRC staff noted the value in the relationship, and the region’s Sheriff lauded our work to one of our trustees.

Years ago I entered the theatre with the belief that we could transform lives profoundly. This work is serving that belief.   What I did not know was how deeply I could still be impacted by the power of the theatre to help and change lives.  I am grateful to the young people I have worked with through the JRC, and I can’t wait to meet a new class later this fall!

Kate McGuire
Artistic Director and CEO
Berkshire Theatre Group