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New Stages: Arts Empowerment for Juvenile Offenders.

I haven’t been with Theatre Action Project long and already I can tell you that I am in love with this organization! TAP is all about using theatre to get communities talking, a kind of “theatre for living.” This type of theatre is about empowerment– about people being the experts in their own lives and being able to use theatre as a means of creating change.

All of our programs carry this message to a certain extent; I find this especially true in looking at our program New Stages: Arts Empowerment for Juvenile Offenders. This is a program for teens in the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department residential program at Gardner Betts.

I just got back from the performances, Little Brother and Our Story, and was completely blown away by the courage the youth had in telling THEIR story.

Throughout the performance several of the youth expressed their feelings of being “forgotten,” “misjudged,” or no longer wanting to “live in the dark.” So often as a society we decide what is best for today’s youth without consulting them. We often don’t do this intentionally but it does happen and that is what I think is so great about this new program; it gives youth a chance to express themselves creatively.

The boys’ performance, Little Brother, directed by Andrew Dolan, TAP Teaching Artist, was created through letter-writing. What kind of letter would you write to your younger self? What would you write to yourself thirty years from now? Collectively, over 40 letters were written to a character called Little Brother. The main message of this piece was that “I’m here and I matter.”

The girls’ performance, Our Story, directed by Amanda Hashagen, TAP Middle and High School Program Director, was created using a collection of monologues, poetry, and movement, written by EVERY girl that has lived at the facility since October. The performance was a combination of true stories and others created through character work. I was very moved by the monologues the girls gave. Some of the things these girls have had to endure are unimaginable; they are survivors.

I applaud these young men and women on their hard work over the past few months. In performing, not only did the youth have a chance to get their voice out there but also were able to overcome personal fears– getting up in front of a group and saying “this is me-this is my art” is no easy task. I am excited for this program and can’t wait to see it develop and expand as we continue to grow here at TAP!

Blog Author: Sarah Garza, TAP Community Relations Assistant

About creativeactionaustin

We are based in Austin, Texas and reach more than 16,000 young people every year through our unique blend of theatre and education programs.Our programs expose young people to critical social problems and offer opportunities for them to creatively think about how they can be a part of solutions to these problems. Creative Action is a unique blend of art and education – for us, the two are intertwined. We believe that using the arts as a teaching method provides a fun, engaging and inspiring way to learn – it incorporates the whole mind and body.

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