Immigrant youth have been sold a story that they have little value in our society and their voices don't matter. They are growing up in a fractured political system with diminishing public trust in our national leaders, and many feel disempowered to make a difference.
We are flipping that narrative by bringing immigrant youth center stage in an ongoing theatrical dialogue with community stakeholders. Throughout history and across cultures, theatre has been used to inspire and move social justice forward, and we are carrying on that important tradition.
We are activating our next generation of artists, innovators and change-makers. We work with them over time to build a critical understanding of the social forces that affect their daily lives and fine-tune their own creative voices to describe their realities and discover their collective power.
Now in its 10th Anniversary Season, People's Theatre Project cultivates ongoing artistic dialogue in NYC’s immigrant neighborhoods to amplify youth voices and grow the next generation of leaders.
People's Theatre Project is a leading provider of creative youth development programs in Upper Manhattan, rooted in social justice. Through the process of devising theatre, participants deepen their sense of power, strengthen their connection to community and develop the skills to become creative, collaborative and compassionate 21st century leaders.
People’s Theatre Project envisions a Washington Heights & Inwood where youth voices are active, powerful, and undeniable.
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 Academy and the PTP Ensemble.