52nd Street Project Celebrates Creativity of NYC Youth with ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, PLAYS YOU CAN'T IGNORE
Founded in 1981, The 52nd Street Project has been inspiring the creativity in kids from Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen and helping them develop and take part in original pieces of theater with theater professionals that are then offered for free to the general public. Children enter the program around age ten and continue participating in it through their teens. Providing a safe environment for youths to experience accomplishment and collaboration, The Project generates an inclusive environment where their students not only belong, but one where their creative work is the driving force. Beyond the world of theater, the long-term mentoring relationships formed between Project staff and volunteers and their members expose the young minds to diverse art forms, including poetry, photography, theatrical design, dance, stage combat, and filmmaking.
This coming weekend, January 24-26, The 52nd Street Project will present their 2020 Two-On-Two Production ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, PLAYS YOU CAN'T IGNORE. "The Two-on-Twos put two teens together, usually ages 14-15, to perform in a short play, that has a song," says Artistic Director Natalie Hirsch. Many of the programs presented by The Project feature words crafted by the children; however, the Two-On-Two plays are written by an adult playwright and directed by an adult. "The playwright meets with the two teen actors, gets to know them a bit, and then writes a play specifically for them," explains Hirsch. "We spend a weekend upstate with the actors and directors, to get out of the city and have a rehearsal retreat." Then, the plays are fully produced and performed in their very own theater: The Five Angels Theater at 789 Tenth Avenue, between 52nd & 53rd Streets.
By the time a member of The 52nd Street Project gets to perform in a Two-On-Two, they have collaborated with Project staff and artist volunteers in other ways and have performed on the stage at The Project. "The Two-On-Twos is the first program where our members are performing on stage with a peer instead of an adult partner," says Hirsch. "So, they are taking the next step in their growth with us by supporting eachother onstage, taking on more responsibility as a performer, and becoming more confident on stage."
Not only do these adolescents grow as artists through this experience, they also develop and grow essential skills to be successful adults in whatever professional fields they may choose to pursue. Through the programs at The Project, members are supported as they develop soft skills like self-confidence, resilience, experiencing success, building and supporting community, and self worth. Also, because they stay with the program from ages 10-18, the adults at The Project get to spend a lot of time with each member too. As a true home away from home, they get to know their project members individually as they develop and grow by offering services like daily homework help in addition to fostering art and creation.
For ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, PLAYS YOU CAN'T IGNORE, audiences can expect a short evening of fun, funny, and touching plays appropriate for ages 12+. "They are all original pieces written by some fabulous playwrights and also directed by some amazing artists," says Hirsch. "You will see eight teens being very brave on our stage." Creativity abounds in other ways for ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, PLAYS YOU CAN'T IGNORE too. "They [audiences] will get to see our wonderful aesthetic where all of our props are made out of foamcore and are made specifically for each play," adds Hirsch. "They will also get to hear original music created by our volunteer composer."
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, PLAYS YOU CAN'T IGNORE runs Friday, January 24, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, January 25, 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, January 26, 3:00 p.m. at The 52nd Street Project's Five Angels Theater (789 Tenth Avenue, 2nd Floor, between 52nd & 53rd Streets). Tickets are always FREE. To reserve tickets, please click HERE.