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Texas Tower’s Inspiring Moment with Changing Lives Program

by Alexandria Vandiver, Texas Tower PR

Last week Texas Tower PR had the privilege of attending one of Creative Action’s many programs, Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble (CLYTE). The ensemble works with about 15 students from all over Austin, ages 14-20. creating and present acting selections that address social problems like dating violence, bullying and homophobia to various elementary schools around the city.

The night began with the group coming together, answering a thought-provoking question that tied in to the topic for the session. This icebreaker was great with getting everyone comfortable and focused for the night. We participated in activities that focused on breaking and setting boundaries and bonding. It was easy to see the members of Changing Lives seeking to become tight-knit and really enjoying their experience. The group worked on acting exercises, preparing for presentations.

My favorite part of the night was watching the members do warm up acting exercises which let their personalities and passion shine through. We would definitely love to see more programs like these implemented around Austin like this one that addresses critical questions and issues  teenagers and young adults commonly face. It provides the right tools and resources to help them get through similar situations and aid them in making the right decisions.

We saw and experienced first-hand what a difference it can make. It was a memorable and fun experience to be able to participate in a Creative Action program, a big thanks to all the members of Changing Lives and their director Nitra Gutierrez.

Drawing on their life experiences and what they learn from partner SafePlace’s counselors, Changing Lives youth work with Creative Action Teaching Artists year-round to create, perform, and tour an original, educational show throughout Central Texas.

After participating in Changing Lives, 100% of ensemble members reported that they felt confident sharing ideas and opinions in front of a group; that they cared how their actions affected others; that they could stop hurtful teasing when they saw it; that they could talk to other students about taking a stand against sexual harassment and dating abuse; and that they could respond to others when they are asked for help.

What do you think about our Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble? To learn more about them, contact Nitra Guiterrez, Middle and High School Artistic Associate:

Changing Lives Auditions Are Right Around the Corner!

by Nitra Gutierrez, Middle School and High School Program Associate

When I was a young actor, I approached auditions with a mix of anxiety, challenge and excitement.  I would get nervous and feel the heat rise to my cheeks as my heart beat fast with anticipation.  Once or twice, I decided that avoiding the audition process altogether was a safer choice than facing someone who would tell me whether I was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for the part.

It’s a high-stakes experience.  When we want to perform, we want to share ourselves with the world.  What could be more deflating than sharing yourself with a group of strangers only to be rejected?  Performing is an act of tremendous courage. It takes a lot of courage to take risks.  It takes guts to put yourself in front of people.

I empathize with young actors who enter any audition process. I know it can be scary, so I work to make our auditions as positive an experience as I can.  It’s not competitive.  It’s not stressful.  Trying out for Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble feels more like attending a rehearsal than an episode of America’s Got Talent.

I think it’s most important for youth trying out for the program to decide whether they are a good fit for the ensemble.  I ask them, “Do you enjoy this?  Is this the kind of work you can commit to with your whole self?  Do you see yourself giving the ensemble the time and dedication you’d give to an extra-curricular sport or a part-time job?”

People ask what ‘we’re looking for’ in Changing Lives auditions. My response is always the same. “I want team players, not divas or stars.  I want strong voices but not necessarily the loudest voices in the room.  I want kids who have something to say and are also ready to listen to others and collaborate artistically. Most importantly – I want youth who are willing to be themselves and commit fully to the play-making process.”

Changing Lives is a group of teen artist/activists who write and perform original theatre pieces about issues that affect teens. In the fall semester, we work together to build our performance skills and have meaningful discussions about the issues as we zone in on a topic. By spring, we turn all those skills into a full theatre piece that we tour to local middle and high schools. Key info about participation:

  1. Ensemble members must commit to the ensemble for the full school year and are paid a stipend for their work at the end of each semester.
  2. Rehearsals take place on Tuesdays & Thursdays from 7-9 p.m. at a location in central Austin.
  3. Students are responsible for their own transportation to rehearsals and performances.

Auditions for the 2012-2013 ensemble will be held on August 30th from 7-9 p.m., location TBA. To reserve a spot at auditions, please text your full name and the word “audition” to 361-537-6163.

If you have questions, please email for more information.

P.S. My first day of school was AMAZING! I conquered my fear of nuns and discovered that Sister Rogelia and Sister Rosario were fantastic story tellers.

Changing Lives Summer Program Interviewing New Ensemble Members

by Nitra Gutierrez, Middle School and High School Program Associate

Photo by: Carol Acurso Photography

This summer, we’ll be working with Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble students in a two-week conservatory style acting program to continue nurturing our artistic practice for the upcoming school year. We’ll be holding classes to hone our skills in voice production, movement and scene study. Students will:

  • Develop their presence on stage
  • Learn tricks to stay in the moment during scene work, and
  • Continue cultivating their memorization and projection skills.

Students will meet in the afternoons from July 16-27 at the Scottish Rite Theatre to unlock the skills that professional actors use in their creative practice.

Photo by: Carol Acurso Photography

Changing Lives is a group of teen artist/activists who create original pieces of theatre to spark dialogue about issues that affect teens. During the school year we work as a group to create an original theatre piece about an issue important to teens. In spring we tour our show to middle schools all over the Austin area. Ensemble member positions are paid during the school year program. This year’s summer program is designed to serve students who would like to continue with the ensemble in the fall semester.

If you know a teen between the ages of 14-20 who would like to use their voice to create positive change in their community, is interested in performance and would be a good fit for the ensemble, please contact our Artistic Director, Nitra Gutierrez ( to schedule an interview.

P.S. I never went to summer camp.  Summer camp was my Grandparents’ backyard — we lived in our bathing suits.  My favorite summer was probably the one when we watched Dirty Dancing every day (twice sometimes!)

Wish for Changing Lives

by Susie Gidseg, Managing Director, Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble


As this year is coming to a close, and 2012 just beyond the bend, I just wanted to take some time to reflect on what we have accomplished this fall and look forward to our wishes for the future.

This year Changing Lives is finishing the fall semester with 23 students. We have a fall retreat under our belt, a new complex and exciting script we are staging, and over 600 students have already seen our students perform at the No Place for Hate Conference and the We Are Girls Conference. We are excited about what we have accomplished and learned, and the fun we had doing so.

For the future—we wish for a calm, exciting and successful tour. We wish for students with open minds and hearts to see our play, and schools and conferences that are excited to have us. We wish our students resiliency as they balance home, school, and rehearsal. We wish tons of memories, good times, growth, learning opportunities and joy. We look forward to many more exciting experiences with this group as they embark on their spring touring season—with a bunch of fun along the way. Here’s to a great 2012 with the Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble!