On teens, awards, and judging art

Perhaps you heard the announcement yesterday that our teen Shadow Company was accepted into the 1st ever Philadelphia Youth Theatre Festival. We are excited about this opportunity to perform, but it also holds a bit of discomfort for us as we are artists and storytellers first, collaborators to boot! Our whole company, our entire organization is in many ways, the antithesis of competition. However, this isn’t our teen’s first trip to that type of rodeo…

Last year, we participated in our first ever adjudicated theatre festival. At the ESTA (Eastern States Theater Association) Fest in Delaware, the teens competed against adult companies from across the east coast with their masked dance/theatre piece “The Fall.” Shadow Company won 4 awards: Outstanding achievement in Sound Design, Outstanding achievement in Costuming, Outstanding achievement for Ensemble Performance, and the prestigious Spencer Watson Technical Theatre – Direction Award.

Winning those awards was huge for a company that doesn’t typically compete, but the resulting dialog among the members of the company was where we really saw the impact of our work. To a person, each Shadow teen recognized that, while awards are nice, it is not our goal and definitely not as important as our process. I wish you were in our post-show meetings! It was so heartening to hear teen after teen share that the parts of the trip that meant the most to them were playing together in a nearby kiddie park, singing in the cars on the highway, and being able to be together to share their story with an audience. It’s not that the awards don’t feel good (that’s a double negative – the awards do feel good), but we know that the lasting impact on those teens is the power they feel in being connected, in making a difference.

You can make a difference too. If you know a teen (or are a teen) who would love to join us, please have them sign up for our summer Shadow camp program. The summer is a great time to intersect and become part of the team. If you would like to support Shadow Company financially to ensure that they can continue to make a difference in this world, please click here now.

Winter Sort of Thing 2017 wrap-up

    Then and now: Rolanyi Galan at Summer Theatre Camp in 2005 and today.

What a fantastic, jubilant, and celebratory 10 year anniversary we just had. I hope you were able to be there as we looked back at 10 years of our Winter Sort of Thing program. If you were there, I am sure you felt the importance and weight of all of those years. Over 200 kids and adult actors, youngest person in 10 years was 7 and the oldest was 71. Kids from all over Philadelphia participated, from each of our programs. One of those, a veteran Winter Sort of Thing cast member for the first 3 years, was invited to speak at our WSOT VIP event. (Thanks so much to Bourbon Blue for the space, food and drinks!) Rolanyi Galan was the perfect alumni to share what Winter Sort of Thing and Yes! And… Collaborative Arts meant to her. I am sharing her words that she spoke here with you. I am so thankful for her witness and her willingness to speak so kindly on our behalf. What follows is a transcript of her speech.

To me it started with The Simple Way, a bunch of young people that lived across the street from my mom’s store in Kensington: Michael, Michelle, Brooke, Shane, Jamie. I met them when I was about 5 or 6 years old and they are a vital reason as to why I am who I am and think how I think today. My name is Rolanyi Galan and right now I work at as an afterschool coordinator at a middle school in Philadelphia. I am a loud personality who loves to love and is not afraid to express myself and I owe that to Yes And…

I’ve been a part of this family for 10 years and I always felt so lucky. I did it all: theatre camps, Winter Sort of Thing, and Shadow Company. Even as a little girl I always knew that I was a part of something special and different. It wasn’t until I was about 12 years old that my theater camp experience changed amazingly. Me, along with my two cousins, went to Eastern University to be a part of the ensemble for the Cinderella musical. That changed everything, to be a part of such a well-directed show, with an amazing cast was unforgettable. They fell in love with us kids just like we fell in love with being on stage. By the following year I was back on that stage at Eastern University performing our very first Winter Sort of Thing. It was such fun, amazing experience from hearing the creative songs for the first time to the intense rehearsals. Even in between scenes there was always someone there, whether it was someone to help me with math homework or to give you a hug, or to teach you a real life lesson. We worked hard but we played even harder and that’s what made everything worth it. Now that I’m in my twenties I constantly find myself reflecting on the great people who helped mold me and it always gets me choked up because while your average 20-something-year-olds were out partying or building families, they too were creating a family and partying but with us. They gave us love always, acceptance, helped build confidence and exude this eternal shine that they just knew how to bring out of people. And that is so beautifully inspirational to me. So much so that life in a very full circle kind of way brought me to a position to work, create and help build with children. And because so much of Yes And.. is naturally a part of me I believe sets me apart at work. The kids gravitate to me differently because of the energy I bring to them, the amount of attention I pay to them. I know they feel the natural care and fun. I love kids and I love how I can pay forward what I learned from Yes! And…

Thank you for letting me be a part of this special day. I can’t wait to see what the 10 year anniversary Winter Sort of Thing show will be. But before I leave, I want to leave you with one thought: please consider helping Yes! And… because they are still working hard to create a family and still love partying with kids!

If you would like to join Rolanyi in support of this program, or any other program we offer, please visit this link and give today. http://weblink.donorperfect.com/YACA