Update on 2018 After School Group

On Mondays and Fridays I have the opportunity to work with the kids in our After School Group. They come every day at three, to work in a different area of personal development through creation. On Mondays they work on acting skills, and on Fridays they cook a meal to share together. Fridays are my favorite, because I get to see the kids I have gotten to know collaborate in the kitchen and eventually come around the table to share the food they made together, which I think is a calming and empowering way to end the week with the group. Nutrition, cooking, and sanitation aside, the real lesson being taught on “Foodie Fridays,” in my opinion is one of my favorites: how to enjoy feeding each other. How to put a meal on the table with, and for others. How to collaboratively make a family moment happen.

This past week I had the pleasure of seeing the kids almost every day. One day they worked with one of our board members, D’vorah, to make flower bouquets for the elderly patients she serves through her non profit, Mending Spirit. Continuing on the flowers-for-others theme, they made paper flowers for the cast members of our yearly Winter Sort of Thing, before they went to see the show. They even got to act out the first scene of the musical together, learn how to block a scene, and acclimate themselves to the joys of theater production.

The best part is getting to watch them get going. While they arrive hungry and frustrated after a day at school, bickering with each other on the way through the door, reluctant to go through more instruction, once they get into their project for the day, they each really take off in their own way. Whether the less talkative few become more agreeably social, or the more rambunctious ones become hyper-organized and take charge of making things run smoothly, you can tell they really enjoy being here. Wednesday through Friday, I got to spend enough consecutive time with them to realize that I’ve really gotten to know them over the past two months, and that I love watching them learn to do well in both artistic expression and willful kindness.

Their big upcoming project idea is to make a YouTube Channel, and to have another public event like their popular “mystery dinner theatre” that they did in the fall, so keep your eyes and ears open for some assuredly fun videos and events from our talented After School Group!

From Office Admin. Intern, Cassidy. (Meet Cassidy in this blog post.)


Winter Sort of Thing Review

From Office Admin. Intern Cassidy. (Meet Cassidy in this blog post.)

The end of February saw our annual Winter Sort of Thing put on at Venice Island Performing Arts center, and in case you missed it, I’m here to tell you what I thought.

The kids in Winter Sort of Thing put on the most surreal musical I’ve ever personally seen. I instantly thought that there were so many dynamic layers to the concept of the musical which, coupled with the simply designed set and costumes made for a feeling of ease and yet a lot to think about. This was my first Sort of Thing and I was blown away.

The story about Colliwomple, a town repressed through a disallowance of music, singing, dancing and general thought-stimulating fun, was made a working piece of art not only through the kids’ fresh and excited acting, but also through the detail-oriented and well thought-out songs. Every musical piece was timed and performed with only necessity to the story in mind. Sandwiched between two main numbers were a lot of smaller pieces centered around one word or sound at a time. The most interesting aspect of the musical was the purposeful integration of music and rhythm into the regular dialogue, and interruption of scenes by the smaller musical asides, showing that even in a repressed society, hope naturally seeps into communication.

My personal favorite part is the opening after intermission when the kids see what is on the other side of their town. The set is made up simply, but lit beautifully and decorated with ethereal elements that show perfectly the surrealist quality I found so interesting, as well as the boundless creativity of the Winter Sort of Thing kids.

Having helped with technical and monetary necessities in weeks leading up to opening night, I was pleased to see it go on so well, and excited to finally witness a show put on by Yes! And… kids. The final show of Saturday night even faced a completely full, almost overflowing theater, which made us truly proud.

Many thanks to everyone who came out to see the performance and supported our kids!

Gearing up for WSOT 2018: The Song of Silence

One of the most popular questions we have about our Winter Sort of Thing shows is how we pick the themes and topics we’ll explore in this year’s production. While our Artistic Director Brooke Sexton is mostly to credit, we all get to mine and explore and enjoy (as artists) the themes she thinks up.

For me, the theme of The Song of Silence is in direct relationship to the times we are living in. It takes the concept of a “wall” and then teases it out to its natural conclusion. One of the things that makes old Colliwomple a “great” town is how much activity it has. The town is situated at a popular crossroads and everyone loves coming in and out, staying for a while, and moving on. When some of the town’s young people begin to leave, seek their fame and fortune outside of Colliwomple’s borders, some of the town feared a mass migration. This fear led to the wall. For a time the safety of the isolation was welcome by the older residents. Then it became “just the way it is” until a group of kids started asking “why.”

For us, working with kids, we realize that they are the best at asking “why.” Why are things the way they are? De we have to keep doing it that way? Kids are natural dreamers and, if we listen to their dreams, we can find inspiration. For those of us in this work, these kids inspire us every day.

All of our shows are told through the lens of these young people. We think that, while many of the stories we tell with them have universal themes, there is a particular gift the audience receives from seeing the world through their eyes. This story would not be the same if it were a bunch of older people, stuck in their ways, full of fear themselves. We definitely trade on the passion, and unearned confidence of these youth to see that a better world is possible – in Colliwomple – and here too. This isn’t a group of actors pretending to be young, this experience is watching young people, giving them agency, and watching them succeed with a huge story. As a program, we are so proud of the ways in which they take risks, go big, and learn new skills. As a performance, we think that a wide audience will enjoy watching a story well told, and relevant for the times we live in.

Check out this new video from one of our teen Shadow cast members:

Meet Cayla, New Marketing Intern

I am excited to introduce myself as a marketing intern for Yes! And… Collaborative Arts! I am completing my internship through Drexel University, where I am a sophomore Communication major. Any promotional material for YACA that you see throughout the fall and winter seasons may have been designed by me. I am also working to help make sure that events run smoothly and successfully.

Not only am I interested in marketing and PR for nonprofits, but I also have a long history of involvement in the arts that drew me right to YACA and its message. When I was young, I spent my time jumping between theatre, vocal performance and dance. In the past few years, I have picked up cosplay and costume design as a way to keep myself connected to other creators as well as my own creativity. I can attest to how just important the arts are to a developing child, and how collaborating with other artists can help them cultivate relationships that build into the future.

I am also a strong advocate for social justice, which makes YACA something that I am proud to be a part of. Growing up in Houston, I have lived around and experienced incredibly diverse communities with beautiful and unique ways of expressing themselves through the arts, and I feel that this is a wonderful away of contributing.

Hopefully I will get to witness the hard work of the YACA campers for myself soon. In the meantime, I am eager to learn all that I can about marketing for nonprofits as well as more about the positive impact that the arts have on young lives.

We are not “child care”

By: Michael Brix, Executive Director 

2017 Theatre Campers
2017 Theatre Campers

Last night, I had the pleasure of sitting with a group of our key staff members. Our key staff members are, by and large, young artists with a passion for young people. They are seasonal and part-time, but 10 of them came out to make our company better. We were led by 2 board members, one of which a founding member of Yes! And… Collaborative Arts and the other a founding board member. Together we talked for 3 hours about our work, our commitment to diversity and how to describe that commitment, as well as ways to make our programs stronger for both staff and kids.

In the middle of their discussion, I thought back to a conversation I had with a Summer Camp parent a few weeks ago at the Mt. Airy Village Fair. Her child had been a part of Imagination Camp in the past, and this year was due to move up to our middle school Theatre Camp. She wound up not registering and sending her child because their friend couldn’t sign up for a multi-week program and the child wanted to attend with their friend.

Sidenote: If you’re not familiar with our programs, our K-4th grade Imagination Camp is offered in week-long sessions. Our middle school Theatre Camp is 2 or 3 week-long sessions.

Like many parents, she inquired as to why we require multi-week sessions for middle schoolers and I gave a quick answer: Well, we’re not child care.

I don’t have anything against good quality child care and I typically don’t like defining us by what we are not, but I like how clear and unequivocal the statement is. We have worked for close to 20 years on developing a pedagogy and praxis for using the arts to empower children and youth. (We even named it: “Tribe Centered Learning.”)

Through this pedagogy, we program our day, our week, and our multi-week sessions to be age-appropriate, challenging, arts-driven explorations of community, imagination, and equality. This is not simply child care.

We work, not only to give these youth a voice, but to train them to use their voice, tell their stories, and find their power. We work so that young people who come to us for a few weeks in the summer will grow together, learn about how they fit into community, and have agency to change the world around them.

Shadow Company folk
Some high school Shadow Company members

We hope, that by requiring them to join us for multiple weeks in the summer, they will leave hungry to continue with us year-round; that the relationships they build with each other and our amazing staff compels them to join Winter Sort of Thing, or After School Group, and (eventually) Shadow Company. We are seeking life-long connections and so we are not just child care.

We make sure no child is left behind because they can’t afford it. This summer, it was to the tune of $100,000 in “camperships.” It’s also why we ask families who can afford it, to help us in our mission by pitching in financially so we can keep our population economically diverse.

I am making an open invitation to you, no matter if you got here because you are an internet browser, or Facebook story clicker, or blog junkie: JOIN US! Join us by making a contribution today. Our program model needs your assistance to make it work for all youth. A gift of $315 can give one child a week of programming. Can you help us continue in our mission today?

Click here to give now!

And when someone asks why you donated to the kids at Yes! And… Collaborative Arts, you can say it’s because “they are more than just child care.”

Thanks so much!