Reflections on the 2014 Summer Performing Arts Academy: Voices of Our Youth

DSCN1806[1] Two of our yong thespians from this summer’s Performing Arts Academy, Ms. Essence Diamond Green and Ms. Mattie Rene Alexander both whom attend Garfield High School,  stopped by LHPAI to visit and I had the pleasure of speaking with them about their experience. Their insights are indicative of the impact LHPAI continues to have on youth and the salience of arts education for youth.

What was the most difficult part of dealing with adults this summer?

Essence Diamond Green: It was sometimes difficult to communicate because I speak to young people and adults in a similar way and I had to learn how to adjust that when speaking to adults.

Mattie Rene Alexander: It was a challenge working with adults because they often believe they are right but that is not always the case.

In what ways do you see the performing arts having had an impact your life?

EDG: This experience taught me the history of our background specifically how the KKK treated African American people in the south and how African American people were able to survive. It impacted me in terms of seeing how people are able to thrive despite intense hardship, especially with groups like the KKK still being existence.

MRA: This experience has impacted me by showing me that it takes a lot of hard work to do something you’ve committed to. You can’t just give up because it gets hard. I’ve acquired a lot of life lessons that I can carry into my adult years. It has also taught me about leadership and community. For those reasons, I will definitely come back next year.

What was the most exciting aspect of this year’s Summer Performing Arts Academy?

EDG: I learned how to dances of the time period specific to the play. Singing was completely new to me. Learning lines was a huge challenge but I was able to do it. Being in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic environmental opened me up to new experiences that I learned a lot from.

MRA: The performance was amazing. The anticipation that built up in advance was awesome. Meeting new people was very exciting. It was awesome to meet a new group of people who I ended up becoming friends with and with whom I still hang out.

2014 Summer Performing Arts Academy, Teen Musical Director: Marita Phelps

M.Phelps headshot

At the helm of this year’s Teen Summer Musical, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, is a skillful and extraordinary young woman, Ms. Marita Phelps. I sat down with Marita this week, just one week prior to the opening of the musical to learn more about her experience and the highlights of working with the youth on this production. Marita’s insights show a commitment to the performing arts and to it’s salient role in the holistic development of our youth.

Negarra A. Kudumu: What is your artistic specialty? And please share with us a little info on your professional trajectory to date.
Marita Phelps: I love the performing arts and all the roles within it! Although, I have written plays more than anything I love to act and direct as well.
I began playwriting at age thirteen when my first one-act drama, Don’t Ever Call Me Black was staged in Seattle’s FringeACT Festival of New Original Work in 2004. I went on to attend Howard University for playwriting where I earned a BFA. My one-act, Smoke & Mirrors was featured in the DC Black Theatre Festival in 2010 and in the Howard Player’s 24-Hour Playwriting Festival. I was a visiting student of Columbia University in my junior year where I began developing my first full-length play, Baggage of Beauty, later read at Howard University and again in the DC Black Theatre Festival in 2012. Recently, I began to broaden my skillset even further into arts administration. I will enter Master of Fine Arts program this fall at Seattle University to pursue Leadership in the Arts.

NAK: In what ways so you see the performing arts having had an impact on the lives of young people?
MP: The performing arts serves youth development in so many ways! Really I could talk about it forever. This summer some of the positive outcomes I have witnessed are confidence, the gaining of self-worth and learning one’s history. Producing Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry presented the perfect backdrop for creative ways to teach our teens African American history. Since it is proper to research the background information and context of a play, we were able to slide in history lessons with little to no resistance. Being that African American history is underrepresented and misinterpreted in classrooms, it is very rewarding to offer something to our youth that they may not have the chance to learn again until college. I overheard some of them talking among themselves saying things like “Wow, I learned more here than I did at school. “ and “How come they don’t teach this at school?” We were able to offer our youth a long-view history of the people of African descent opposed to beginning the story at the point of enslavement, which is so vital to one’s sense of confidence and self-worth. I love seeing their faces light up when they finally get it after I’ve interrogated them with question after question. Things like, “What’s your objective here? What type of emotional state does this put you in?” I would spend 15-20 minutes working with each young person – even those with the smallest roles, with just a few lines –  in front of their peers and as a result, their sense of contribution to group and their confidence dramatically increased.

NAK: What has been most exciting about this year’s Summer Performing Arts Academy?
MP: The most exciting part about this year’s Summer Academy and Musical is the abundance of natural talent in the group. So many of the youth have never performed before or have limited experience but are immensely talented! I have felt chills a couple of times in rehearsal after songs and well played scenes. I am really excited to be able to mold their talents, teach them basic acting skills and professional theater standards. It’s also been interesting to see some of them become really serious about the performing arts after having experienced the summer academy and musical. I can’t wait for the community to see what we’ve all worked so hard on this summer.

Teen Summer Musical: “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry”

Teen Summer Musical: “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry”
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, August 15-17 

 

WHAT            Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI) is proud to present the 2014 Teen Summer Musical, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Based on the Newbery Medal-winning novel of the same name by Mildred D. Taylor, this story follows young African American youth living in the South during the Depression. Along with youth actors, young people will support their colleagues behind the curtain to create the lighting, staging, sound and set design for the production. This year’s production led by a team of renowned performers and teaching artists: Marita Phelps, director; Kabby Mitchell III, dance director; Paul Davis, music director; Cedric Thomas II, music teaching artist; Alaisha Jefferson, dance teaching artist; Ebony Arunga and Kwame Morrow, stage managers; Patrick Crowley and Erica Rose, acting teaching artists.

 

WHEN:           Friday, August 15– 7 pm, opening night, reception to follow

Saturday, August 16 – 2 pm

Saturday, August 16 – 7 pm, talk back to follow

Sunday, August 17 – 2 pm

Sunday, August 17 – 7 pm

 

WHERE:       Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Ave S., Seattle 98144

 

HOW:             Tickets are $7 for youth and seniors, and $12 for adults and can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets or by calling the LHPAI box office at (206) 684-4758.

 

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2014 Summer Performing Arts Academy Teaching Artists Par Excellence: Paul Davis and Kabby Mitchell

kabby-mitchell

Kabby Mitchell

We are  extremely honored this year to count among our teaching artists two amazing gentlemen, Messrs. Paul Davis and Kabby Mitchell. They are teaching music and dance respectively in this year’s academy and serving as musical director and choreographer the summer musical, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. I sat down with these two gentlemen after an intense day of teaching to talk about their professional experiences as well as their perspectives on youth performing arts. It is a joy and pleasure to work with these gentlemen for this year’s Summer Performing Arts Academy, and it is our pleasure to share this with you.

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Paul Davis

NAK: What is your artistic speciality? And please share with us a little info on your professional trajectory to date.

Paul Davis: I am a singer/song writer and I am creative director. I have written musicals. I started off with singing and producing theater in the airforce and then studied piano at Seattle Central College where I met several African-American professionals in the arts and culture sector.  I am currently working as a vocal coach and as a choir director and coach with various churches and musical organizations. I am also the Executive Director of the Human Harmony Choral Academy.

Kabby Mitchell: I am a dancer, choreographer and educator with emphasis on the latter two. I was the first African-American to dance for the Pacific Northwest Ballet. I have also danced with Dance Theater of Harlem as well as the Netherlands Dance Theatre. I have also worked in Mexico with Televisa performing in Spanish and English.

NAK: In what ways do you see the performing arts having an impact on the  young people?

PD & KM: It assists them in building their personal creativity. It also gives them a level of discipline that they can transfer to other areas. You see the adverse affects of this when arts were removed the public schools. Many children completely tapped out because they didn’t have  an outlet that allowed them to build confidence, discipline and have a creative outlet.

NAK: What is most exciting about this year’s Summer Performing Arts Academy?

KM: I left a class where we dealt with the history of Jim Crow to teach choreography for a play like Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. That is amazing! Because of my background in African-American studies, I am able to contextualize the history and events of that time as well as translating that into into choreography.

PM: I get to tap into my gospel roots. The kids are incredibly talented. With the right among of training, they will be able to become artists in their own right.

A Conversation with Rodney Greene of the Seattle Quare Arts Program

rodney jarreau greene

I finally caught up with Mr. Rodney J. Greene  in the Seattle Office for Parks and Recreation who works with the who works with the Seattle Quare Arts Program a partnership between Parks and Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI). In the run up to tomorrow’s film screening and next week’s showcase in partnership with Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Rodney was able to take some time to speak with me about the importance of this ongoing partnership and his vision for the progam moving into the future.

Negarra A. Kudumu: What is most exciting to you about the partnership between LHPAI  and Seattle Parks and Recreation, that has birthed the Seattle Quare Arts Project?

Rodney J. Greene: It is so vital that we have access to a place in our community that focuses on people of color, especially black people, in the arts. Being able to work with LHPAI gives our young artists of color an outlet that places the center of attention on them.

NAK: When you speak to the young people involved in this program, what are they saying about it? How is it affecting them?

RJG: They are excited to perform and work with our mentors and I can see them growing as performers all the time.

NAK: What can we expect from the upcoming showcase on June 18?

RJG: We have some great young performers who will be doing music and dance numbers. We are looking to make sure we have a poetry component as well.

NAK: What is your vision for the program moving forward?

RJG: Quare Arts Project is a pioneering program, and as far as we can tell, the only non-service based program in Seattle that specifically focuses on queer youth of color. We love the programs that provide basic services and health care, but we also need to provide things beyond that for marginalized groups. Ultimately, I hope Bearing Witness and Quare Arts Project become a central part of Seattle’s Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC) community.

 

On Wednesday June 11th at the film Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of  Marsha P. Johnson screens at LHPAI in the Grand Hall. Tickets are free on a first come first serve basis. Reserve your ticket here. The following Wednesday, June 18 is Bearing Witness A Queer Youth of Color Performing Arts Showcase in the Theater. This performance is also free, on a first come first serve basis and starts at 7 pm. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

CALL FOR TEACHING ARTISTS: LHPAI Summer Performing Arts Academy

TEACHING ARTIST OPPORTUNITIES
Deadline: June 5, 2014 at 4 PM

Reporting to the LHPAI Arts Education Manager, LHPAI teaching artists will work collaboratively to provide an opportunity for artistic growth and development of Summer Performing Arts Academy students ages 6 – 19, in an educational environment culminating in two theatrical productions. More information can be found in the call here.

Please send a resume and cover letter detailing your interest and area(s) of discipline you are qualified to teach. The cover letter should include a statement commenting on your desire to work both for LHPAI and in the fields of performing arts and education. Your cover letter should be a reflection on the ways in which your personal philosophy of teaching in the performing arts aligns with your understanding of LHPAI’s approach. Send all materials via email to Kristi Matsuda by the deadline, June 5, 2014 at 4 PM.  Interested applicants should visit the LHPAI website at langstoninstitute.org to learn more about programs.

 

Bearing Witness: LGBTQ youth of color take center stage

The Seattle Quare Arts Program is a partnership between Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. This year’s program has several associated opportunities for youth to earn money during the summer.

For more details about the Quare Arts Program check out this article, Bearing Witness: LGBTQ youth of color take center stage.  See below for the details about the associated programs and to sign up.

Stay tuned for more information about the Seattle Quare Arts Program on the LHPAI blog.

Mother of George, Closing Night, Sunday May 4

Mother of George copy

Is it fair to heap the pressure to bare a male child on a woman in a non-traditional society who is having trouble conceiving? In Andrew Dosunmu’s Mother of George we see this story play out not only between man and wife but between families all of whom are invested in the conception and subsequent birth of a male child.

Brought to life by the brilliantly talented Issach de Bankolé, made famous by director Jim Jarmusch, we witness on screen moments that are at times so private we feel like voyeurs. What does it mean to replicate traditional mores and values in a so-called modern environment? What are the choices available to a young married woman facing these challenges? Dosunmu’s film leads us into a world that may be unfamiliar due to tradition, but that is actually quite recognizable as an issue that young couples face every day.

Mother of George screens closing night, Sunday May 4, at 7 pm. Check out the trailer and get your tickets here.

Stay tuned to regular updates to the schedule and special events by visiting our web site and connecting with us through Twitter and Facebook. When you post to social media use our official hash tag which is #LHAAFF2014. Join us tonight, opening night at 6:30 pm for the screening of They Die By Dawn with special guest and filmmaker Jeymes Samuels. Immediately following the film is a filmmaker talk back and reception with music provided by DJ SASSY BLACK (Cat of THEESatisfaction)

Film passes give you greater access to LHAAFF. We offer an All Access Pass ($150) and a Friends of LHPAI Pass ($50). Tickets for individual screenings can be purchased by visiting our dedicated 2014 LHAAFF Brown Paper Tickets page.

See you at the movies!