Rooted in Upper Manhattan, People's Theatre Project (PTP) is a social justice arts organization that creates ensemble-based theatre with and for immigrant communities and seeks to develop the next generation of diverse, socially-engaged artists and leaders.
People's Theatre Project’s core programming includes: PTP Partnerships, which provide K–12 students the experience of devising theatre in their school environments; the PTP Academy, which offers dedicated young people a rigorous and supportive multi-year arts & social justice training program; and the PTP Company, which offers young people and all New Yorkers access to professionally-produced devised theatre. Through this programmatic cycle, PTP participants deepen their sense of power, strengthen their connection to community, and develop the skills to become the next generation of creative, collaborative and compassionate civic artists.
Through destabilizing policies and poor media representation, today’s immigrants have been sold a story that their lives have no value in our society and their voices don't matter. Many feel disempowered or too scared to make a difference.
We are flipping that narrative by bringing immigrants and the immigrant experience centerstage, engaging community stakeholders in ongoing theatrical dialogue. Through ensemble-based theatre, we reimagine a world full of equity for all.
We are activating the next generation of socially-engaged artists and leaders. Participants leave PTP equipped with a strong sense of community and self, awareness of inequities they may face, and the skills needed to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.
In 2009, Mino Lora, an immigrant woman from the Dominican Republic and Bob Braswell a long-time New Yorker, co-founded People’s Theatre Project (PTP) in their Upper Manhattan neighborhood with the goal of building a culture of peace through theatre in Washington Heights. In 10 years time, what started as a broad vision of impacting the community through the arts has developed into a trusted community resource showing real results.
People's Theatre Project found its voice in the summer of 2009 when PTP volunteers stopped 200 people on the street to find out what role the arts had in their lives. When respondents were asked about the last time they attended the theater, about 85% of people said they had never been or had attended only once when they were children. When asked if they would be interested in performing on stage with People’s Theatre Project, over 90% of people answered with a resounding “Yes!” or “Claro!”. This was when the founders knew that PTP was not only about bringing stories into the community, but bringing them out of the community as well.
In its first decade, People’s Theatre Project has worked with dozens of uptown schools, and community-based organizations to engage more than 5,000 immigrant youth of color while producing hundreds of in-school performances in addition to annual organization-wide showcases in the community. Working alongside a coalition of community stakeholders, PTP has championed the artistic and cultural renaissance of Upper Manhattan. Early collaborations led to the creation of inspiring organizations including Theatre of the Oppressed NYC, Word Up Community Bookshop, as well as the opening of the United Palace Theatre to the community. Innovative partnerships with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights have brought PTP’s community-created performances to every corner of the neighborhood and across 4 boroughs. In the summer of 2014, PTP was funded by the US Embassy to devise theatre with youth from San José De Los Llanos and present at the International Theatre Festival in Santo Domingo. People's Theatre Project returned to the island in Summer 2016 through a collaboration with the DREAM Project.
In Spring 2017, People's Theatre Project embarked on a facilitated strategic planning process to reflect on the organization’s past, present and proposed future direction. The process resulted in a refreshed mission and vision centered on neighborhood youth, a renewed commitment to Washington Heights and Inwood, and strategic priorities for the next three years including the launch of the PTP Academy and the PTP Company.