Guest post: “Giving Beauty Back” by Katie Wilson of Elephant Room Productions

Editor’s Note: From time to time we will feature guest posts from our Artist Teaching staff. We hope to bring you content that is helpful in understanding who the artists are who work directly with our children and youth. In today’s entry we hear from Artist Teacher Katie Wilson who, along with Artist Teacher Phil Czekner, helps lead Elephant Room Productions, a theatre production company dedicated to telling difficult stories. We encourage you to check them out. Post disclaimer: This post mentions the existence of suicide.

Giving Beauty Back: The Heart & Story Behind Elephant Room Productions

YACA Teaching Artists: Phil Czekner and Katie Wilson.
     Phil is the Executive Director of ERP and Katie is the Marketing Director of ERP.
                                              (Article written by Katie Wilson)

Art is important: whether you are learning it, teaching it, creating it, or just enjoying it. Art is important to have in our lives. As a young theatre artist, I have made it my mission to surround myself with art that will better the lives of others. This was one of the reasons I was drawn to Yes! And… Collaborative Arts. As an artist teacher and collaborator, I am given the opportunity to enrich children’s lives through music, play, and guidance while learning so much from them in the process. Art is all about give and take. As an undergrad studying theatre at DeSales University, I had the rare opportunity to work one-on-one with the late founder of our department, Father Gerard Schubert. Even in his old age, he was constantly inspiring young artists such as myself. He had a personal tagline that he carried with him from day one: “Give Beauty Back”. This phrase has informed my personal and artistic life more than I can explain, and has led me to companies and collaborations that are living this mission out to the fullest. One of those companies is Elephant Room Productions.

Elephant Room Productions, a bi-locational theatre company, was founded in 2014 by Christopher G. Ulloth and Lauren M. Shover, along with a close group of collaborative artists (including Yes! And… Collaborative Arts’ Phil Czekner.) It began with a simple goal: to create the work we wanted to do on our own terms. Our mission statement is based on our devotion to create work that brings to light the stories and issues that are typically more difficult to face. A couple of our previous projects have included topics such as racism, PTSD, addiction, schizophrenia and immigration. We bring this work to the public in many different ways: producing staged readings through our Elephant Ears Reading Series, participating in local cultural events and fundraisers, and producing full-length productions. We strive to use our art to raise awareness of the issues at hand and in turn create true change.

As mentioned above, a unique cornerstone of ERP is our Elephant Ears Reading Series.  The Elephant Ears Reading Series, or EERS, is a developmental playwriting program of our own design. This program gives a home to original pieces at any stage of development and allows writers and actors alike to hone their craft without the pressure of an audience! EERS is broken up into a few developmental stages that take our playwrights on a journey until they feel overtly confident in the work they have created. EERS is the heart and soul of our company and allows us to choose and develop work that we believe will give the most beauty back into the world.

Due to our success and growth thus far, our herd decided to embark on a brand-new adventure this year. Suicide Stories: Gallery of the Untold, a 2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival piece, will be our first full-length production! This play features a number of different playwrights who have curated original pieces exploring the topic of suicide from the eyes of a survivor. Each piece incorporates its own specific art medium including painting, dance, mosaic, film, etc. to be performed in an interactive gallery setting. The point of this piece is to humanize this problem without romanticizing it. Suicide is an epidemic. It is taboo and misunderstood. We aim to start a meaningful conversation while doing these stories justice. A portion of the proceeds from this production will go directly to a suicide awareness establishment in hopes to continue the fight against suicide.

Much like our teachings with Yes! And… Collaborative Arts, we believe every story deserves to be told and every voice deserves to be heard. We at ERP are so grateful to have the opportunity to create and produce the art we are passionate about. Please join us for one of our upcoming events or reach out to us today to see how you can get involved and make a difference. Join the herd today and always remember to give beauty back.

WANNA SEE US IN ACTION? Join us for our upcoming, collaborative cabaret that is kicking off Philly Beer Week: A Midsummer Night’s Cabaret: Bottoms Up! This ridiculous, musical, drinking game of a show takes place on Sunday June 4, 2017 at City Tap House University City located at 3925 Walnut Street! Visit our events page for details and tickets!

WANNA LEARN MORE? To learn more about Elephant Room Productions, Suicide Stories: Gallery of the Untold, the work we create, the artists behind it, or how to get involved, please visit our website here!

WANNA JOIN THE HERD? If you believe in our mission and want to help us create art that will provoke inspiration and change, please visit our donation page and donate today!

WANNA COLLABORATE? Elephant Room Productions is always accepting submissions from playwrights, actors, collaborative artists or anyone else who wishes to get involved. Reach out, submit, or just simply say “hello!” at erpsubmissions@gmail.com!

WANNA FOLLOW US? You can find us on all major social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, & LinkedIn) as well as iTunes with our featured podcast, The Trumpet!

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