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Self-Empowerment Theatre

mission: to create theatrical opportunities that instill confidence, creativity, and discipline in youth.

vision: to empower youth for life.


founded in 1976


Young Actors Theatre was founded in 1976 by Charlotte Kaufman, an NYC actress who made her home in the midwest. From 1976 to 2005, YAT brought classic theatre training to 60 school-age students each year. Two of those students were Justin Wade and his sister Catherine, who saw something special in YAT and began assisting Charlotte with the organization. Justin assumed the role of Executive Artistic Director in 2005.


re-founded in 2005

With a new team of theatre educators and creative minds, YAT began to soar. Justin honed his craft as an educator, and began to develop a new approach to theatre training. Theatre education could be more. It could be used to teach larger lessons, and build lifelong learners. After a long brainstorming session with the YAT board, we had the makings of something new: a foundation for everything we would build with our students.

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our core values


We're in the business of engaging and teaching any and every student, and we deeply instill this in our classes. Learning is better facilitated when all students feel like a part of a true team, which can only be achieved through acceptance and inclusion of everyone.



The best teams are made up of strong individuals. We inspire uniqueness and individuality in our students, and encourage them to value the same in themselves and in others. We encourage our students to form opinions and instill in them the confidence to stand up for themselves.



In a world fraught with distraction, it is imperative that we motivate our students to take responsibility and improve themselves. Learning does not end with school, it is a life-long engagement, and when empowered to self-actualize, our students stand ready to learn more, readily adapt, and change the world.



We believe that process is more important than product. Process is where true learning happens. The glory and rush of performance is temporary, but what happens inside of the classroom, the habits made and tenets instilled, sticks with students for life.



When you are in a true state of learning, it is always fun. Period. If the students and teachers are not having fun with the learning, no learning is actually happening. We keep the rehearsal room fun! Loud music, laughter, and an energy that is all about the art.

This is the foundation for a new kind of youth theatre performance.

And each performance is built on
five elements:

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make something new.

Learn the building blocks.

Navigate the stage in style.

Tell the story as a team.

Quote history's greatest.


We decided: out with the pre-bought scripts, out with the monologues, out with waiting backstage 95% of the time. By incorporating world-class theatre trends like physical theatre, devised theatre, and site-specific theatre, an original brand of arts education was born in Indianapolis.


Today, everything that we do is
Self-Empowerment Theatre.

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our vision:

to empower youth for life.

Since 2005, Young Actors Theatre has transformed into the largest youth theatre in Indianapolis. Last year, YAT brought Self-Empowerment Theatre to nearly 2,000 students and reached over 10,000 audience members across the state of Indiana. We work directly with youth approximately 350 days a year, and on average 75-80 hours a week. With a home base in Downtown Indianapolis and performance sites across the greater Indianapolis area, we work to provide more than a stage to the youth we serve.

we are more than a theatre: we are a training ground.

the minds behind yat

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Justin Wade

Executive Director


georgeanna smith-wade

Artistic Director

Georgeanna Smith Wade is the Artistic Director of Young Actors Theatre. She began her career at YAT as an assistant to Justin in school programming before becoming a Director. She became the Head Acting, where she began to work on the development and implementation of Self-Empowerment Theatre. As the Associate Artistic Director, she created and implanted The Court, YAT’s social issues performance group that has performed all over the state. She has been the Artistic Director since 2017, where she manages the day to day operations and artistic programming at YAT.

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A cum laude with high honors graduate of the Jordan College of the Arts at Butler University and the Phoenix Theatre’s Meisner Training Program. She is the former Executive Artistic Director of the award winning organization, NoExit Performance, which NUVO Newsweekly has called “Indianapolis’ most adventurous theatre group.” When Georgeanna took the helm of NoExit, the company grew from two members to nine, increased the annual operating budget from $5,000 to $50,000, began producing full seasons, and boasted some of the most critically acclaimed of any performance group in Indianapolis. She is also a co-founder of Summit Performance Indianapolis, Indy’s first professional women focused theatre company. She continues as a company member of NoExit and continues to work as a free lance actress throughout the city. She was named one of IndyStar's Top 15 to watch in 2015, as well as being named as on of 2013’s “Most Compelling Performance Artists” by The Examiner. She was a recipient of the Indiana Arts Commission’s Arts in the Park grant in 2016. She received numerous collegiate awards and studied in St. Petersburg, Russia with internationally renowned director Alexander Anisimov. She was formerly a lead actor/interpreter at the Children's Museum. She has studied with Brian Bedford, Dan Kamin, Anne Bogart, Kristin Linklater, Joe Goode, and more. A former dancer, she has trained at the Academy of Dance Arts, the Jordan Academy of Dance, Gary Geis Dance Company, and Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre. She has been seen onstage at the Children's Museum, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, NoExit, Q Artistry, Eclectic Pond, Defiance Comedy, SiteLines, Susurrus Dance, among others. She is a published author on the topic of creating museum programming for actors (IMTAL journal), as well as a featured presenter at the International Museum Theatre Alliance conference. An experienced director, Georgeanna’s work has been praised by critics city wide. She has previously worked with students at Pike High School, Fishers High School, Heritage Christian School, the Project School, Christel House Academy, and Herron High School. Georgeanna is also a certified Pilates instructor and a Black Belt in Taekwondo.


Gara Gaines

Managing Director

Gara Gaines is all about encouraging people to be fully enthusiastic about what they love. After graduating from Hanover College, she moved from Nashville, TN to Indianapolis and began exploring its rich nonprofit sector. As Managing Director for Young Actors Theatre, she serves as a director for several YAT classes, including our K-3rd grade Sandbox program. She also organizes registration, develops educational materials for performances, heads the social media team, and treats the job responsibility "assists in other areas as needed" with the deepest respect and enthusiasm.


Jaytel Provence

Creative Lead


Lillian Crabb

Development Coordinator

After growing up in Indianapolis, Lillian attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where she studied the History of Art with a focus on Baroque painting and sculpture. She served as the costume designer for the Opera Theatre of Yale College for three years and designed costumes for several other theatrical productions. After two years in the jewelry and diamond industry in Boston, Lillian has returned to Indianapolis to dedicate herself to the local arts community. At Young Actors Theatre, she is working to expand the scope of Self-Empowerment Theatre by developing relationships with new schools in need of a revolutionary theatre program. Her spare time is spent on the textile arts, including knitting, quilting, and tatting.


Ali Conley

Outreach coordinator


Jerica Henderson

Self-empowerment theatre teacher


Sarah fenster

Self-empowerment theatre teacher



Ann Marie Elliot

Catherine Wade

Ryan Mullins

Ben Asaykwee