YAT is a training ground for life

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YAT is a training ground for life

At YAT, we talk a lot about how we are not trying to train a new generation of actors. We are training a new generation of leaders, through the medium of theatre. As we think about and add new programming, this is the thought that’s always in our mind.

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The Experiment and the larger world of immersive theatre

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The Experiment and the larger world of immersive theatre

In the past decade or so, the theatre world in the US and the UK has seen an explosion of immersive and site-specific performances. These are different from traditional theatre in that there is not necessarily a set stage or playing space - these performances use “installations and expansive environments, which have mobile audiences, and which invite audience participation.”

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What does self-empowerment look like?

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What does self-empowerment look like?

It’s great to talk about self-empowerment theatre in big, life-changing terms sometimes. It’s important that we keep realizing that what we’re doing has the power to change things on a global scale. But some of the most compelling moments happen within a single student and it’s important to tell those stories as well.

A student came to us when she was about ten years old, and she was dealing with a lot, even though we didn’t know it at the time. Her younger brother had died in a drowning incident in her family’s backyard pool. Her older brother was struggling with substance abuse. She’s coping with issues and problems that floor adults, let alone children her age. At first, she was a really shy kid who wasn’t really getting into lessons. She would sort of fold up in on herself and speak really quietly. It was clear she wanted to be there, but didn’t think she had much to contribute.

I remember one class in particular. We were doing a gibberish exercise where all of the students stood in a circle and had to jump in the middle one at a time and spit out gibberish, just anything, as fast and as enthusiastically as they could. She jumped in the middle, a little unsure, a little timid, but I kept pushing her to go further with the gibberish and all of a sudden she just let go into a fire of it, just spitting out gibberish to everybody. All the students were laughing, she got this great response, and I could see in her that she had emerged a totally different person. She held herself up a little bit higher. YAT became her passion. She was obsessed with our program, involved in it in every way, shape, or form. She bought into it and it changed her. That’s self-empowerment.

Her older brother later died of a heroin overdose. She lived while dealing with the death of her younger brother and he didn’t. And she’d tell you that the difference was going to YAT.

In one of the best interviews I’ve ever done, Travis DiNicola from WFYI said that what YAT is doing sounds like stuff that happens at good youth theatres anyway and we’re just putting a name to it. I think this is absolutely true, but there’s power in recognizing it and explicitly working towards it. In the end, it will always be about the process and the students.

 

- Justin Wade, Executive Director of YAT

 

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The power of optimism

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The power of optimism

There are young people everywhere who feel like the world is falling apart. Because of their access to the rest of the world through the Internet, too often they see a dark picture of humanity in chaos. They know about every act of terrorism, every mass shooting, every word of prejudice in a way that our generation did not at their age. However, there’s another side to the world that sometimes isn’t as easy to see. We’re living in a time that’s filled with the most exciting innovations in the history of mankind. The same technology that makes it easier for a teenager to know what hardships others are facing across the globe also makes it easier for them to learn about the incredible advances being made.

I look at all of this and think, “What is the difference between seeing the optimistic and seeing the pessimistic?” And it comes down to being a self-empowered individual. It comes down to acknowledging the difficult and making a conscious decision to turn that situation into something positive.

Self-empowerment is a tool that gives students the confidence that they can have an organized, focused mind that can filter through all the information that’s being thrown at them constantly.


The power of theatre is that it can provide a place for students to think deeply about different points of view, to see a problem from all sides, and to enact the solution. When people come to YAT shows, when students participate in it, and especially when students see other students participating, they see self-empowerment happening onstage. It’s the same feeling you get from watching that one scene in your favorite movie. That invincible, ecstatic feeling that something good is coming right around the corner and you know how to make it happen. That feeling that makes you watch a movie seventy times? That’s the feeling we give our students, along with the tools to carry it into their everyday life.

 

- Justin Wade, Executive Director of YAT

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