Jefe's House

Tag: mantua theater project

Mantua Theater Project

by on May.08, 2018, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Today wrapped up my 4th and final session of serving again this spring as a playwriting mentor to at-risk middle school youth in West Philly through Drexel University Theater Program Director Nick Anselmo‘s Mantua Theater Project. The plays are moving, hysterical, poignant, zany, all of the above. Next they get handed off to professional actors and directors and performed for the community as an evening of short, kid-written plays. It’s an unbelievable experience for everyone including me, and, most importantly, it blows the kids’ minds and opens them up to a whole new world of expressive possibility.

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Croc Galore and More on 8/11

by on Aug.06, 2012, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Join us this Saturday 8/11/12 at 3:00 and 6:00pm on Drexel University’s mainstage for the presentation of seven short plays written by local playwrights aged 7-13 in the first annual Mantua Theater Project, the brainchild of Drexel Performing Arts faculty Nick Anselmo (left).

Seven creative youngsters joined forces with a gaggle of Philadelphia theatre professionals (including yours truly) to create original works for the stage. The result is an evening of talking hamburgers, fairy doctors, cheetah painters, floating eyes, and more.

WHEN: Saturday, August 11; 3PM and 6PM.

WHERE: The Mandell Theater at Drexel University, 33rd and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia

FREE ADMISSION

Please note that there are TWO shows, a 3PM and 6PM. Come help pack the house to create a truly memorable experience for these kids and their families, and see some hilarious, poignant shorts.

The Shows:

The Hero, The Criminal, and The Butler
By Ameenah C.
Directed by Cara Blouin
Featuring Alex Blouin and Tim Rinehart

One Hundred Year Old Thousand Legger
By Brenda C.
Directed by Damon Bonetti, dramaturged by Gerre Garrett
Featuring Reuben Mitchell and Adam Altman

Croc Galore
By Ammarava M.
Directed by Nick Anselmo, dramaturged by Jeffrey Stanley
Featuring John Turnbach and John VanZelst

The Taco Who Was Afraid of Dogs
By Nadiah M.
Directed by Nick Anselmo, dramaturged by Tim Martin
Featuring Bi Jean Ngo and Laurel Hostak

Tyree and the Amazing Hamburger
By Saabir D.
Directed by Josh Browns, dramaturged by Greg Romero
Featuring Langston Darby and Bi Jean Ngo

The Day Without Respect
By Vanessa B.
Directed by Charlotte Northeast, dramaturged by Laurel Hostak
Featuring Adam Rzepka and Melissa Connell Cassara

Tara Loves Billy
By Alexis M.
Directed by Adam Immerwahr, dramaturged by Rachel Gluck
Featuring Charlotte Northeast and Mark Watter

Also featuring John Lopes.

Hope to see you there.

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Mantua Theater Project

by on Jul.30, 2012, under NYC, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

I’m thrilled to have been a part of the incredible Mantua Theater Project this past weekend, sponsored by Drexel University and created by Drexel Theatre Program head Nick Anselmo.    Nick modeled it on New York City’s 52nd Street Project where he used to work, based at my old stomping grounds The Ensemble Studio Theatre.  He also previously replicated this phenomenal organization at a theatre in Trenton, NJ several years ago to work with economically disadvantaged kids there.  Now he has replicated it for at-risk 4th through 8th graders in Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood which borders Drexel’s campus.

Nick’s technique is based on Daniel Judah Sklar‘s book Playmaking: Children Writing and Performing Their Own Plays which was the foundation for the 52nd Street Project.  This summer’s inaugural program at Drexel took  place over the course of four weeks during which Nick taught the basics of playwriting to about a dozen kids.

After that, the students were paired with professional playwrights for a retreat weekend, working one-on-one to create short plays.  That’s where I came in, helping an energetic 8-year-old girl realize her awesome creative vision with her Peter Panlike fantasy play Croc Galore which is 7 pages of poignancy and hilarity about two orphaned creatures helping each other survive in a jungle full of traps, danger and liars.  Hers and the other students’ plays are now being handed off to professional directors and actors, and will culminate with a performance for these young writers’ friends, families and community members on Drexel’s main stage, the Mandell Theatre, in August.  I plan to be there front row, center.

As Drexel’s website accurately puts it, “the process yields funny, creative, surprisingly truthful and often hilarious results. Along the way students develop self-esteem as they create something to be proud of.” Drexel students are also helping with various aspects of the program. Education, and Screenwriting & Playwriting students will be involved in the classes, and Theater students and alumni will help with the production.

Granny, 1967.

For me, a similar lifesaving program didn’t come along until I was a teenager. That program was the Young Writers Workshop at UVa which I’m glad to see is still going strong. Thanks to a partial financial aid scholarship from the good old Vinton, VA Moose Lodge across the street from my high school (thanks to the efforts of my profoundly influential 10th grade English teacher and lifetime friend Rose Townsend) and a donation from my now-departed grandmother, Ethel Orelia, who had an 8th grade education and had been out picking tobacco at the age of 4,  I was able to attend the 2-week UVa workshop two summers in a row.  The experiences I had there — visiting a college campus for the first time, getting a taste of college life, meeting professional writers and other like-minded kids — set the course of the rest of  my life.  I had been raised in a cash-strapped single-parent home and wound up becoming the first person in my family to attend college, let alone grad school, moving to New York City at age 19 with a one-way ticket and a duffle bag, and went on to terrific success as a dramatist and university faculty, and it all started because a writing workshop presented itself to me out of the blue.

I hope that my thimbleful of work this weekend yields similar results for these kids someday.  Not that  they all need to become playwrights but that they see there’s a whole, wonderful world just outside the borders of their own neighborhood and that they’re just as entitled to participate in it and have a piece of it as anyone else.

Congratulations to Nick Anselmo and the  Mantua Theater Project.

 

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