by Nitra Gutierrez, Middle School and High School Program Associate
After a full year of working with Theatre Action Project’s Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble, I often find myself faced with mixed feelings come May. Part of me (I think it must be my brain) tallies up the successes we have experienced together:
- Writing an original play, learning performance skills, touring shows for audiences of 600+
- Having peer leaders make appearances in the news and on panels advocating against bullying and unhealthy relationships and
- Taking CLYTE students on our first performance at a national conference
I consider the challenges we have faced as a team:
- Wrangling 20 energetic teens, maintaining our focus, getting them to be loud when we needed them to be (and getting them to be quiet when we needed them to be)
- Dealing with the unexpected actor illnesses on performance days
- Working through the frustrating moments when we wished the play could write itself
Another part of me (you might say it’s my heart) is simply awestruck at the growth and beauty I have witnessed while working alongside these students.
It’s remarkable how much growth a person can experience in a year. In September, I had a motley group of shy kids and self-professed weirdos who “didn’t fit in anywhere else.” Some were silly. Some were silent. Now I see a unit of authentic individuals who have grown by listening, laughing and working together. They recognize the ensemble as a family whose relationships will continue to grow far beyond this school year. Where I saw fear in September, in May I see young adults rising to any occasion with confidence. I am proud of them, not just because they have become better actors or because they have learned to work as a team, or even because they have achieved so much but because they have allowed this experience to change their own lives- and mine.