Articles, Blog

Shotgun Players Make a Difference

So one of the things that happens after your
theater company’s been around for a couple decades is that folx start asking you what
your education program is going to be. When we started thinking about like what are
the ways that we can make a difference in the world. We can’t solve hunger and you know, stop nuclear
proliferation, but we can do things on a small level with people using theater. As theatermakers, we all fall in love by sitting
in the audience first. And that’s when you have the opportunity to
say, “Wow, maybe I’d love to do this myself some day.” But if you’re 22-years-old and you’re working
at a coffee shop, you don’t have thirty bucks to buy a ticket to see a play. And so we decided we’d come up with this
program that would allow people that are 25 and under to buy a $5 ticket. During The Rover, we have to, we have to cross
around the building, when we have to enter through the audience and what we could tell
by the state of the bike racks, by how many bikes were on the bike racks, how the good
the show was going to be, because if there were a bunch of bikes on the bike rack, then
there were a bunch of kids in the audience and then there’s gonna be a really rocking
show and on Thursday nights, when there were $5 tickets for people under 25, the bike
racks were always packed. Laney’s been coming to see Shotgun shows consistently
since 2010. I’m sitting in the audience. I love what I’m watching. Now I want to find a way to participate. So, we have a mentorship program that takes
these young, these 20-year-olds, these folx in their late teens and gives them real-life
opportunities, not just to be sitting in the audience and like stapling reports, but to
work on shows, to understudy plays, to sit in on the rehearsals and help take notes and give
those notes to the director. So it started just by us coming to see their
plays and then also, it sort of grown into recently hiring us and bringing us actually
into the space, so I am the production assistant on Shotgun’s current show, Heart
Shaped Nebula. It’s hands-on. It’s like where you were watching, now you
are participating and you are contributing. That deepens everything. Yeah, as I was interning, just happen to be
running the auditions and was watching people, got the nerve up to audition Next thing I know, getting cast
in a three-year voyage. Coast of Utopia was like my grad program really
and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Having been able to come in and see these
plays was already a blessing. And then to be able to have talkbacks and be in
rehearsal spaces and actually communicate with the director of that. It was something that really opened my eyes,
me personally, because it’s like, “I think I really want to do this. So, it’s like yea.” The other part of our program, the third part,
is something we call the creation part of the program. There are five or six different theater companies
throughout the year that we mentor and help them as they’re getting their footing and
trying to figure out their own way of mounting their own play. Fusion is the theater company that formed
out of the Laney Theater Arts Program. What we’ve been working to do is turn Fusion
into it’s own professional theater company, which would be one of the first of its kind
of young, predominantly people of color, still students themselves, who are making, you know,
interesting and engaging plays. Well, the, so the work trade was really neat
for a lot of reasons. One thing that was really cool was that we
got free space, which was amazing, because as a young theater company, we don’t have
anything in the bank, so all we have, what we have is time. And we ended up getting a lot more than just
space out of that. We also made friends and made relationships
with these other artists and these other companies that were coming in and ended up casting a
bunch of them in The Free Theatre shows and then some Free theatre actors ended up working
these other companies, and then I ended up just kinda mentoring some high school kids. So just some really neat things started to happen. In 2014, Shotgun had invited the Fusion Theatre
Project of Laney College to perform on their stage. So, one: it was just an amazing learning opportunity,
but then two: something, a play about your home written by young women that look like
you and kinda come from similar backgrounds, is really empowering and moving. And to see that go up onto a professional
stage means a lot to me. You can be yourself and you can don’t have
to worry about other people judging you, as long as you’re not judging yourself, everything
else doesn’t really, you know, matter because you have this stage to really just tell the
story, especially if you’re passionate about the story that you’re telling, it makes you
even just want to go back for more and just keep going and going. So I think that theater helps people be comfortable
with who they are. The energy when you’re working with these
young people, it has this way of, the energy circles back around and their enthusiasm and
their passion and their new ideas are feeding up into the older generation of 30’s and 40’s
and 50-year-olds who have been making it. And so the Make a Difference Program is our
way for us to not only to give back, to you know, to pay it forward as it was to us, to
this younger generation, but also for them to nurture us and to support us and to inspire
us, so that we’re able to have this multi-generational experience that’s happening here.

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