Recognizing the numerous challenges that court-involved youth face within their communities, the Stargate Theatre offers its members practical and useful job readiness skills, as well as financial incentives, in a joyful, engaging setting. Developing trust in oneself and others, collaborating on a creative endeavor, learning to give and accept constructive feedback – these are more than the hallmarks of a successful theatrical process; they are positive life skills.
Among Stargate’s goals is to develop young people’s interpersonal skills. Company members learn to cooperate and contribute their ideas and insights to a common goal. They learn to think critically, to assess and evaluate, to revise, and to persevere – even through the periods of frustration and uncertainty that are a part of any creative process.
The development of imagination – the ability to envision a world in which things might be otherwise – is perhaps the most important, truly liberating benefit of Stargate. Through the collaborative, supportive environment its members help to create and the demands inherent in the theatrical production process, Stargate Theatre Project prepares young people to return to their schools and communities with a new determination to succeed and the tools to help achieve their goals.
The Stargate Theatre is a six to seven week theatre-making endeavor. During the summer, company members meet for three hour sessions four times a week, expanding to five times a week while in the production rehearsal phase. The project is led by two co-artistic directors, one of whom guides the writing process, the other responsible for staging and production. The artistic directors are supported by a choreographer, company manager, project manager, and project assistant.
The first half of the project is devoted chiefly to writing the material that will become the theatrical piece the group later rehearses and performs. Writing prompts are related to the ideas, objects, people, and places that company members encounter in their daily lives. The resulting poems and compositions are compiled into a collage play; roles are distributed according to the strengths of each individual company member.
The second half of the project focuses on the rehearsal and production of the collage play. Modeled after the professional rehearsal process, company members are responsible for memorizing their lines, accepting and motivating blocking, practicing choreography, and responding positively to critique and feedback. The rehearsal process concludes with the final performances in an off-Broadway venue for family, friends, and the general public.
Throughout the entire project, company members engage in collaborative ensemble-building activities as well as technique improvement exercises intended to enhance verbal communication skills needed for both the stage and non-theatrical employment opportunities.
The first cycle takes place over the course of six weeks during the months of July and August. Accepting referrals from New York City social service agencies such as Friends of Island Academy and the Center for Community Alternatives, twelve young men comprise the company. Company members participate in a workshop with performing artist Lemon Andersen. The project culminates on August 24 with two performances of Behind My Eyes at New York City Center Stage II. Stargate 2013 was funded by the Leon F. Lowenstein Foundation.
The second Stargate cohort participates in writing workshops and rehearsal for six weeks. The company of sixteen young men enjoys special sessions with performing artists such as Flaco Navaja and Ryan Hope Travis. On July 10, the group attends a performance of MTC’s production of Benjamin Scheuer’s The Lion. The project culminates on August 16 with two performances of Weathering the Storm at New York City Center Stage II. In the week following the final performance, company members take part in a week-long series of professional development workshops geared toward increasing future employment prospects.
Stargate 2014 was funded by the Ford Foundation’s Good Neighbor Committee. The Leon F. Lowenstein Foundation provided funds for planning and dissemination.
Eighteen young men from Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens join this summer’s company. Stargate’s recruitment reach expands to include referrals from eleven non-profit and city agencies, including The Fortune Society, Esperanza New York, Legal-Aid Society and the New York City Department of Probation. The company attends performances of MTC’s production of Melissa Ross’ new play, Of Good Stock, and the Broadway production of Hamilton. Following the performance of Of Good Stock, the young men have an extended conversation with Melissa Ross and cast members, including Alicia Silverstone. The seven-week writing and rehearsal process concludes on August 22 with two performances of Deeper Than Skin at New York City Center Stage II.
Stargate 2015 was funded by Sharon R. Sullivan and Jeffrey B. Kindler, The Monteforte Foundation, Amy and David Abrams, The Bendit Family Foundation, and Noah and Susanna Schankler.