This Thursday night, November 12, 2020, at 8:00 pm IST a new youth theater company in Jerusalem will be performing virtually. They will be performing four short plays written by playwrights from North America. The four plays that were chosen all have to do with some sort of family dynamic and so we called our festival The Art of Family.
Those playwrights will be joining in the Zoom to discuss with the youth about the plays.
- One play, The Dinner Guest by Dale Griffiths Stamos, deals with the dynamic of husband and wife and their relationship being challenged but rescued by the wife through dinner plans.
- Another play, The Improv Class by John Connon, has a mother and daughter working through the challenges of their relationship using improvisation.
- The third play, Overqualified by Lainie Vansant, deals with a daughter’s relationship with her mother and how that affects her ability to find a job.
- The fourth play, Brothers on a Hotel Bed by Elisabeth Giffin Speckman, deals with two half-brothers meeting for the first time while dealing with a death in the family and the prospect of sharing the one bed in a hotel room.
This is a new project of Crossroads Jerusalem that was conceived in the past year and had challenges, like many other programs, with the advent of COVID-19. We continued to operate with Improv classes and theater classes via Zoom, and eventually were able to bring together youth for a theatrical production on Zoom. There will be youth performing from all over Israel and we will even be having someone join from London.
But how did we get here and what is this theater company?
In 2017, I embarked on an amazing theatrical journey that has been enormously rewarding. I started volunteering as a Drama teacher at Crossroads – a center for teens and young adults located in downtown Jerusalem. I was always passionate about teaching theater and this was my opportunity to ‘ pay it forward’ with all I had learned while studying acting in New York. Little did I know how this journey would impact me, the participating young people, and Crossroads itself.
After my first 8 months of weekly classes and then rehearsals in preparation for an end of year production, our theater class put on an evening performance at the AACI/J-Town Playhouse theater in Jerusalem. For many of the participants, this was their first acting experience and first time performing on stage in a public theater. They acted in various scenes taken from plays such as Golden Boy by Clifford Odets, Arms and The Man by George Bernard Shaw, Orpheus Descending by Tennessee Williams, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, and Proof by David Auburn.
As the Crossroads theater program evolved over the ensuing months, an opportunity emerged for us to be introduced to a special theater company in London called Chickenshed. The Chickenshed motto, “Theatre Changing Lives”, and non-judgmental, accepting approach to engaging young people seemed like a good fit with the mission and work of Crossroads.
In November of 2018 I was invited to travel and meet with the Chickenshed Team in London to participate in a shared learning experience about our respective programs. This was an eye opening experience both for me, and the Crossroads Social Worker who joined me.
The few days we spent with colleagues at Chickenshed were jam packed between observing their theatrical work in real time, exchanging ideas and techniques, and discussing different approaches to promoting theater and acting to young people from diverse backgrounds through community outreach. I learned all about the empowering nature of inclusivity from a theatrical perspective and learning to be accepting within a diverse group of peers can be a powerful life-changing experience. I learned that anyone can be in a production and a participant in the creative process. Anyone can contribute.
This year our Crossroads and Chickenshed collaboration began with weekly conversations on specific ideas regarding how we could continue to learn from one another and identify peer-to-peer projects to work on together.
No sooner had we started these conversations, than COVID-19 hit. This provided an opportunity for us to find even more creative ways to engage our teens in a joint project. The first thing we decided was to find a way to make initial introductory peer-to-peer connections. This was facilitated through our arranging Zoom meetings. The next agreed upon step was pairing up teens from Crossroads and Chickenshed UK to create introductory videos which would then be exchanged with one another as well as the group as a whole.
Simultaneously, notwithstanding the disruption of COVID-19, I was still interested in finding a creative way to have another production for our teens to participate in. So we ended up creating a virtual theater festival of four short plays. And these are the four plays that were chosen that all have to do with some sort of family dynamic. It takes place this Thursday evening, November 12th, at 8:00 IST pm and we couldn’t be more excited for the youth who are participating.
We encourage you to come see the Crossroads Theater Shed youth perform on the virtual stage also joined by one of their peers from Chickenshed UK.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about Crossroads Theater Shed today.