The Farmer’s Market last weekend contained an extra bit of flair in the form of a parade of adorable, dressed up kids and their puppets. This is the 5th Summer Pageant in the Park and is just one of countless programs created by the Theatre Action Project to get children involved in the arts early and often.
The kids, parents and leaders all banded together dressed in costumes following the theme How Our Food Grows. This program is only one of many that TAP organizes and holds for students in the Austin area and, thanks to Impact Austin, they will now be adding a new program.
Impact Austin is a local charity comprised of women who want to pitch in to give back to the local community. The requirements for joining are that you are a woman and can give $1000 per year. All of the money is combined into a fund which is then doled out to deserving charities through a rigorous application process. There is only one paid staff member and all the other individuals on committees are volunteers.
This year they awarded five grants to AVANCE Austin, Ecology Action, Partnerships for Children, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area and, of course, TAP. The grant has a very specific purpose and it is required that the money go toward a new program or to expand an existing one.
The TAP grant was $103,400 and is for their new program The New Stages Youth Ensemble. Patrick Torres, who will be taking on this new endeavor, began with TAP two years ago and has worked on the Changing Lives Youth Theatre program. The ultimate goal of both of these programs is to truly change the lives of young people. Specifically, in the case of NSYE, recently released youth who have been incarcerated.
As Patrick says, “theatre is a place of ideas” and it is his desire “to reach out to open a dialogue” with these young people to change their lives from the inside. Therefore, phase one is to get the participants in touch with their own voice and introduce theatre to their lives. Many of the people who will experience the process have never had an artistic outlet and feel uncomfortable with the idea.
Step two is to work on the creation of characters and to see what role everyone plays. Using these characters, step three examines the relationships, interactions and conflict between the characters. The last two steps are choosing how the characters will react and what path they will choose and, finally, performing the play itself.
By closely examining situations from their own lives through theatre, the actors themselves see that they do have a choice in their own lives. The program will also affect the lives of those in the audience who will, in many cases, be other students who have been incarcerated. Patrick commented that the real heart of the idea is that the program “enables them to create something from nothing” which can have a far-reaching impact.
TAP has a number of programs for all ages and “offers holistic programming” to all of its students. Regardless of where they perform or whom they are performing with, the most important part remains the 4Cs: Critical Thinking, Creative Artist, Courageous Ally and Confident Leaders.
Because of Impact Austin, the Theatre Action Project hopes to bring these core values to young people who can really benefit and, in turn, spread them to others.