Category Archives: Theater

Hamilton Happening

Young women walking to Boston Opera House to see Hamilton

This fall Hamilton, the musical and cultural phenomenon, drew standing-room-only crowds from adults and children of all ages during its run at the Boston Opera House. Along with the show came the Hamilton Education Program — a partnership between The Gilder Lehrman Institute, the producers of Hamilton, and the Lin-Manuel Miranda family — in which students from high schools with high percentages of low-income families are invited to see the show and integrate Alexander Hamilton and the founding era into their classroom studies.

2,500 students from schools across Massachusetts attended two stirring special events in Boston, where young people performed their own Hamilton-inspired dance, music, and spoken word on the very stage where the play had been performed. These impassioned readings and performances were accompanied by thundering applause and cheers from an audience that owned each line being recited. By presenting an original work on the founding era, each young person had earned their way to this stage, using their creativity to bring history to life through monologues, rhymes, songs, and poems.

Before the show, teachers guided students through a unique, hands-on class project using Gilder Lehrman Institute resources to introduce the people, events, and documents of the founding era. Students also learned how Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, incorporated primary sources into the songs he wrote for the show and used that knowledge to produce their own performance pieces.

Mass Cultural Council proudly supported this unique learning opportunity, as schools took advantage of our Big Yellow School Bus grants to give students a chance be part of the cultural movement sparked by Miranda’s genius. Many of our Creative Youth Development programs participated actively, bringing their vision and voice onto the stage:

Hamilton inspired me to take a chance. Like Alexander Hamilton, don’t wait for things come to you. Like Aaron Burr; you’ve got to go for it.” – Luis Gonzalez, Margarita Muñiz Academy student

“I think Hamilton‘s deeper meaning shows us that there are many perspectives to see something and we should always keep an open mind.” – Francely Rosario, Margarita Muñiz Academy student

Hamilton showed me that in life, there is nothing that can give you what you want. You need to work hard to get what you want.” – Adonis Jimenez, Margarita Muñiz Academy student

Hamilton made me think of more ways one can be creative with art.” – Edwin Padilla, Margarita Muñiz Academy student

Podcast: Youth Community Built on Firsts

Julie LichtenbergOn the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Julie Lichtenberg, Director of The Performance Project, and Artistic Director of First Generation Ensemble.

The Performance Project’s First Generation brings together young adults ages 14-23 for intensive artistic training, leadership development, and inter-generational mentoring. Forming an artistic ensemble, the First Generation youth create original multi-lingual physical theater performances based on their discoveries.

Listen to the episode.

Read the transcript.

Check out other episodes featuring Creative Youth Development leaders.

Nano-Interview with Tony Jones of Enchanted Circle Theater

Tony JonesName: Tony Jones
Organization: Enchanted Circle Theater
Title: Teaching & Performing Artist
Artistic Genre: Performance Arts
Years in the Field: 27

What do you do at Enchanted Circle Theater?
As a Teaching and Performing Artist, I work in the classroom, in communities, and anywhere learning happens using the arts as a tool to teach, to empower, and to bring about change!

Why do you do what you do?
I wouldn’t know what else to do. I have spent my entire career as an actor and educator. It is my heartbeat.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Connecting with people whose voices get silenced comes naturally to me. I know what it’s like to feel unheard and unseen. My objective is to make everyone’s voice count.

What challenges you in this work?
I wish there were more time in the day.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
My community becomes an example of how education and the arts are stepping stones for further advancement. Working with disadvantaged youth and being an example of what could be if you work hard and work for change is the example I am always trying to set. I want every community to have a voice.

How do you blow off steam?
I read. I cook. I eat. I listen. I learn.

What do you create in your free time?
I write a lot of poetry. I create spoken-word. I create a peaceful atmosphere around me.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
I admire everyone’s work in this field. It all matters.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
Erykah Badu, Whitney Houston, Black Star, Conscious Hip-Hop

Do you live with any animals?
I want a dog so bad, but I am never home long enough to take care of one.

Seen any good movies lately?
Get Out was excellent!

What are you currently reading?
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Maria Kondo

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race

What’s next?
Rehearsal

Podcast: Empowering Youth to Fix the World Around Them

Priscilla Kane HellwegOn the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Priscilla Kane Hellweg, Executive Director of Enchanted Circle Theater.

Enchanted Circle Theater is a community-based arts organization in Holyoke, MA, that works with students, teachers, and social services – in the mental health field, in the foster care world, everywhere and anywhere – using theater arts as a dynamic teaching tool. Hellweg says they’re developing whole human beings, who can think creatively, act creatively, and solve problems creatively.

Listen to the episode.

Read the transcript.

Check out other episodes featuring Creative Youth Development leaders.

Podcast: Youth Finding a Voice, Finding a Stage

Julie BoydOn the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Artistic Director Julie Boyd.

Through Barrington Stage Company’s creative youth development program, Playwright Mentoring Project, theatre is used as a catalyst to help under-served youth learn skills to aid them in developing positive self-images. Boyd speaks to the cathartic nature of this work and to how their programs in education and theatre-making interweave.

Listen to the episode.

Read the transcript.

Check out other episodes featuring Creative Youth Development leaders.

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