It began on the moon.
Yes! And... began as a dream of a few theatre students at Eastern University who wanted to work with kids and the arts in the spring of 1998. They approached their theatre director, Mark Hallen who had been a part of a Pew Foundation notable arts program called MUSE many years earlier. Together they schemed and dreamed and a few months later, Eastern Summer Theatre Camp was born.
That summer children from UrbanPromise in Camden, Barry School in West Philadelphia, the simple way in North Philadelphia and the suburban Main Line all came together for 10 days to play, sing, dance and imagine. The final performance, titled “Moon Dance” was full of the energy and joy that was generated by this truly diverse group of children.
You've got the right stuff, (Baby) steps
The theatre camp model soon spread to other sites in the city. Mark still oversaw the program from Eastern University, but allowed programming to be delegated to some of the young talent in the team. Camps were happening every summer with the Eastern University Summer Theatre Camp still being the home base. They were able to witness the power of their program as each year it became more of a positive influence in children's lives. Eventually though, the program outgrew it's humble beginnings at Eastern University and became (although still affiliated with Eastern University Theatre) fully a city-based program.
Yes! And... is born!
Summer Theatre Camp was a great program, but to serve more kids and continue to grow, they needed to grow themselves. Yes! And... was started as a way to bring arts education year-round to kids in Philadelphia neighborhoods. Yes! And..., under the umbrella of Resources for Human Development, began an after school literacy program with Public/Private Ventures. Summer camps continued to happen as well as studio classes and partnerships with Lyric Fest, UrbanPromise, Eastern University and more.
Continuing to serve kids
In an effort to follow up with kids year to year, Yes! And... began a program designed to teach higher level artistic skills and at the same time give valuable job experience to the teens who were growing out of the middle school programs they offered. The program was called SHADOW (as it was meant to operate while other Yes! And... programs were being run). SHADOW grew into it's own company of actors, with the teens themselves contributing to and helping organize the different activites. They have performed in the annual Philadelphia Fringe Festival and make original theatre pieces several times a year.
Another program that grew out of a desire to continue to reach kids as well as give the artistic staff an opportunity to be creative was the Winter Sort of Thing. Combining kids, teens and adult artists from across their progamming and teaming up once again with Eastern University Theatre, the Winter Sort of Thing is a unique new musical experience. Participants in the program help to build a new musical from the ground up and audiences each year get taken on a fantastic ride of the imagination.
Of course the rest of the story is yet to be written. Yes! And...'s dreams and goals include being able to reach as many children as possible with programs that serve, uplift and change. You can be a part of the future of Yes! And... as well. Be a regular contributer, send a kid to camp, join our intensive trainings, volunteer, or even become part of our wonderful staff or board. Contact us to see how you can be a part of our future!
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