What is the problem People’s Theatre Project is working to address?
Today’s immigrant youth and young people of color have been sold a story that they have little value in our society and their voices don't matter. As our next generation of artists, innovators and change-makers, they will face some of the greatest challenges our world has ever seen and they are growing up in a fractured political system with diminishing public trust in our national leaders. Our country is in need of deeper civic engagement in our communities, yet our neighborhood youth do not see themselves represented in the American dream and many feel disempowered to make a difference.
How does People’s Theatre Project work to address this problem?
We aim to flip that narrative by offering young people of color the space to reimagine a just society and engage community stakeholders in a productive dialogue. 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.
So, is People’s Theatre Project a social justice organization?
Yes! Social Justice is both our operating framework and our end destination. By acknowledging the inequities they are born into, our children and youth participants have the freedom to explore their identities and relationship to society. As a long-term goal, we define Social Justice as a state of equitable representation and political power in which systems work for all people, in particular those who have been historically marginalized by discrimination based on race, gender, economics, sexual orientation, language and ability.
How does the “theatre” factor in?
Throughout history and across cultures, theatre has been used to inspire and move social justice forward, and we are carrying on that important tradition. The theatre is our passion and serves as an accessible and exciting vehicle - like a big colorful party bus! - to get us to our end goal. Making theatre is an act of joyful resistance and it belongs to the people! Our rehearsal rooms are brave spaces full of creative possibilities where we can build community, experiment with new ideas and activate leadership.
What kind of theatre do you do?
Theatre is a collaborative art form that uses performers to communicate an experience before a live audience. We create devised work, which is ensemble based theatre where the material originates from a collaborative process. Our participants work with theatre professionals trained in our arts and activism based methodology and curriculum. Our devised work is based upon culturally relevant and student-centered pedagogy where we incorporate elements from many Latinx and POC artists.
Who is your target audience? Why Washington Heights and Inwood only?
Our founder and Executive Director, Mino Lora, is a Dominican immigrant and theatre artist who has dedicated her life to social justice. Inherently, our target audience is young people of color with a primary focus on young Latinx immigrants. We focus on Washington Heights and Inwood because this community serves as an important political and cultural hub for Dominicans and other communities of color. As an organization with a strong social justice mission, we aim to replicate this model of programming in other immigrant neighborhoods in New York City in the future.
What does this look like in practice? What programs do you offer?
We transform and enrich the spaces where young people already are by partnering with K-12 District 6 schools and our community partners. There, we offer academic year long theatre-based curriculum in weekly sessions that lead participants through experiential learning projects. After school and on weekends, we offer free of charge Public Programs at our Studio Space at 5030 Broadway that allow us to go deeper into the creative work with our participants and be a constant ongoing presence in their lives.
How do the school programs and public programs connect?
Our school, community, and public programs are all part of our programmatic continuum with a curriculum progression that encourages participation from year to year. Students who are introduced to People’s Theatre Project in a school environment often have the opportunity to continue the following school year. Those students who have responded well to the work are nominated to join the Public Programs. At the end of each year, participants from all of our programs come together for our annual showcase called The People Storm The Palace. During this event, we celebrate our community by presenting selected works from our school partnerships, community partnerships, and public programs.