RYT Blog: Current happenings

2017 Light Rail Plays in progress!

Sitting at the Kids’ Table – What did that mean in 2016? And what does it mean moving forward?

This fall, Rising Yoimg_1523uth Theatre put together an ensemble of youth and adults to tackle a project called The Kids’
We assembled this team of artists to explore the idea of a “kids table” and the way youth are so often separated out from so-called “adult” conversations.

As a group we asked ourselves what might happen if the Kids Tale became a space where youth were not separated out, but at the center of conversations about the things that matter to them?

Over the past four months we have dug deep into that question, learning a lot about each other, our community, and the world. We’ve spoken to community leaders and performed for hundreds of people, inviting them to explore topics from a youth point of view. We’ve also seen the world change.  As an ensemble, we’ve started to tackle complicated question of what happens now. What is our role as artists and citizens in 2017?

As we look back on 2016 and forward into the next year, we wanted to share a little bit about what we have been working on through The Kids Table, and what’s coming next for this project and for Rising Youth Theatre.



img_1477We assembled our team of youth and adult artists and began working as a collective. We began to develop a common language, we explored our shared assets and strengths, and started to explore the big questions surrounding this project.

One idea that began to emerge early on was the idea of children’s rights, specifically focused around the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child . This document, which has been ratified by every country in the United Nations except for the United States, provided a starting source material for creating performances for us.



In October we started performing and facilitating at various community events and public spaces. This included

One Journey as part of the Bi-National Arts Residencyimg_2026

As a partner on the Bi-National Arts Residency, we worked with Performance in the Borderlands, Savvy Pen, Center for Neighborhood Leadership, and Shining Soul to bring artist Yadira de la Riva to Phoenix. Members of The Kids Table. Leading up to Yadira’s performance, Kids Table artists facilitated modified playback theatre sessions with members of the South Phoenix community.

kids-table_maricopa-countyKeynote Performance at the Maricopa County Public Health Adolescent Summit

Rising Youth Theatre was invited to perform at the opening of this conference, reaching more than 400 professionals working with young people in Maricopa County. Through a combination of personal stories, gestural movement, and community dialogue, our ensemble led this group of adults in an exploration of their work with young people, and how they can activate their community around youth leadership.


kids-table_maricopa-county2Significantly,  at a conference all about young people, the representatives from Rising Youth Theatre were the only actual youth in attendance – accordingly their perspectives and voices were particularly well-received.






img_2050Session Leaders at the Joint Arts Education Conference

Kids Table Ensemble members facilitated workshops throughout the Joint Arts Education Conference put on by the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. Over the course of the day, more than 150 arts educators participated in a session co-led by youth and adult artists about collaborative practice and asset-based approaches to education.

“The group from Rising Youth Theatre was everything you should look for in session leadership: experienced, thoughtful, and engaging. Of all the conferences I have been to, this was easily one of the most compelling and interesting sessions I’ve experienced. And, more importantly, it felt useful and potentially generative for folks across the arts ed spectrum.”

“They did a wonderful job all around. It was engaging, sincere, open, humble, and committed. They wanted us to participate and were successful and I feel that the majority of us shared. In fact if you count the numerous times we were in groups speaking to one another then we all shared the whole session. It was so engaging and yet simple and ‘low risk.’”



kids-table_the-race-2Leading up to the presidential election, our ensemble started to explore the idea of youth voices and impact, even when you aren’t old enough to vote. Collectively, we created a survey about the issues that matter to young people in this election cycle . We also created a short performance around the survey results that was shared on election night as part of Arizona State University and Sojourn Theatre’s The Race.

After the results of the election came in, our ensemble came together and started to tackle the complicated question of what happens next. Out of these conversations we created a pop-up performance that was shared outside the Herberger Theatre Center at the end of the month. Continuing around the themes of children’s rights, this piece specifically focused around the ways young people can engage in civil disobedience in order for their voices to be heard.
kids-table_herberger3   kids-table_herberger2 kids-table_herberger1



We closed out the year with an ensemble dinner – with a project called “The Kids Table” we really felt that this was the only appropriate way to mark the holiday season together.









Looking Ahead

As we look forward into 2017 we are excited to begin taking the work of our fall together and begin shaping these pieces into a full theatrical production. Look for us to continue pop-up performances around the city and stay tuned for information on auditions to be part of the full production in the spring.

Now more than ever, we believe that this work, and these conversations matter. If we are going to look forward into 2017 and beyond and make a difference, we have to listen to young people. The young people in our ensemble, in our Arizona community, and all over the world are the voices that will be ultimately responsible for our collective future.  

Rising Youth Theatre is committed to making spaces where youth voices are both heard and amplified. We are committed to tackling big questions, hearing all voices, and making a difference in the place where we live. To do that, we need your help. Your gift this holiday season allows us to reach more young people, share their stories with more audience members, and increase our impact across the community.  As a growing company, even a small gift can make a big difference.

Support Us

Talking Politics at The Kids’ Table

We’ve all been there – sitting at “the kids’ table” at a family holiday. Being separated out from an “adult conversation.” Hearing that “you’re too young to understand.” Everyone’s heard it. Maybe you’ve said it.

At Rising Youth Theatre, we’re committed to prioritizing young people’s voices. Our current project, The Kids’ Table, considers what it means to separate young people out from “adult” conversations. Using the metaphor of a family dinner table, we imagine what would happen if The Kids Table became a place where young people led conversations all over the community about issues that matter to them.14702358_1459448820735208_2341224569304310504_n-1

For months, the presidential election has been at the top of everyone’s minds (and twitter feeds). Tensions are high and there’s a lot at stake. The message from all sides is clear – your vote matters.

But if you don’t have a vote (like the under 18 members of our ensemble), you still have a voice. Rising Youth Theatre asked youth all over the country to respond to a survey to tell us what matters to them this year, right at this moment, and how the election impacts those issues. Well over 500 young people responded, with more still coming in. We’re excited to share some of the results with you, and start a conversation from a youth perspective. If you’re under 18 and you’re reading this, jump in! Join the conversation, talk to us or to your peers or to some of the adults in your life. If you’re over 18, think about when the last time you asked a young person for their thoughts on some of these issues? What would it mean to really listen to them, and let their voice help inform your vote? If you want to see ALL of the survey responses (we couldn’t include everything here) you can view the full results here: http://tinyurl.com/electionsurveyresults

As one survey respondent told us: “This election is going to affect us a lot longer than it will affect you. This is our future you’re voting on. Choose wisely.”

Question 1:


Question 2:


Question 3:


Why is this issue important to you?

I care about this issue because I am LGBT+

I care about this because I come from a mom that is an immigrant and life is hard! She is not a person that comes here to destroy this beautiful land she is here to work and to give me and my sisters amazing a better future! Not all immigrants are criminals

The Syrian refugee crisis is a massive humanitarian crisis, and I think we have a responsibility to help as many refugees as we can. I want to know that our future President that views the Syrian refugee crisis as a legitimate human rights issue.

I attend school, a space which should be secure for learning and growth. I shouldn’t wonder every day if I’m going to have a bullet put through my head.

This issue affects everyone in the United States, especially schoolchildren and teachers. My mom and dad are both teachers and I and all of my friends attend school, so the danger of a shooting is always looming in the society we live in. It’s terrifying. Also, gun violence is a huge issue for POC, especially when it comes to racial profiling and the police. Gun violence is an issue that affect the United States as a country, and we need a president who will take action to save our country from such a horrible thing.

There’s such a gap between the amount of taxes placed on the 99% in contrast to the tax of the 1% and big corporations. This disappearing of the middle class is a direct result of unequal taxation.

I identify as gay and I want to make sure I am accepted in the future. Also I want to make sure that I am, along with my fellow LGBTQ+ people are safe and happy

Reproductive health and rights affect me a lot as a woman, and I want representatives in government that understand and respect my rights.

I don’t like paying so many taxes because the government wastes the money on stupid crap

Its important that people are welcome in this country no matter who they are or where they come from, but it is also important that nobody who enters the US is dangerous to anybody.

I’ve researched a lot about it and I think it’s a very big issue, especially for this country and its citizens. As less and less jobs are open, more people need to rely on minimum wage jobs in order to survive, and if people can’t survive off of it, then a very large amount of America will be in poverty

Because, I have not fully gotten through school yet, and I still have lots to learn. Other kids need education to learn about things and to get a job and grow up.

I care because I don’t know what will happen and more importantly I am not from here and have no papers and scared will be hard for us who aren’t American citizens

I believe immigration is important and should be an issue and topic more discussed on . Thousands of families are separated each day due to deportations.

I have family living in the U.S. that are immigrants. Don’t separate families.

My family are those in Mexico who would love to come over to visit us but can’t. Also many families are being destroyed. And education costs a lot of money debt shouldn’t be an option.

I care about this issue because I don’t think it’s fair for innocent people to get deported

I care because people shouldn’t be kicked out of the country because of their race

I care about this topic the most because my parents.

I care about this issue because I have friends that are immigrants

There is just to much gun violence happen and people aren’t really doing anything about it.

Because people are being killed by police and the good police are being killed by people who are angry at the bad ones

In my AP Seminar class, a group decided to create an argument against sexual violence on college campuses. I had always been angry because of sexual violence, but the assignment really gave me a new perspective.

I personally dislike the legalization of guns and how people are carelessly given them.

It’s 2016 and it’s disgusting men are still “above” women.

Because by the time I`m old enough to be grandmother I want there to still be plenty of resources and a healthy planet

I feel like everyone no matter what they are or who they are deserves to be paid equally. Not pertaining to the election but insurance prices should also be the same.

It’s difficult to pick one, but over all I care the most about equality for everyone and reform to prevent crimes toward specific people. Rape is a very important issue for me and as soon as any person, not just a candidate, commits this crime, I lose all respect for them.


i care about this issue because children’s life matters

I care about the issue because seemingly forever race has been an underlying factor for the the cause of deaths in America. I would love to see a change and an overall improvement in the way race relations are handled and violence because of race is stopped.

I’m worried about how much debt I will have and if I will have to change majors depending on costs

I believe that the safety of America should come first. I really think increasing border security and military funding is essential to our country at this time.

Because society and the government suck at equality.

Question 4:


Question 5:


Question 6:


Question 7:


How Does this Individual Reflect the Issues You Care Most About?

Hillary Clinton:

She’s experienced with making decisions that impact more than just her and those around her. She listens to the American people and what they really need from the government.

Well she is not kookoo like Trump. She is a good person and she cares about people. She cares about women and children and everyone.

She will hopefully raise minimum wage nationally as well as support reproductive rights

Hillary cares more about the well being of women and people than the other candidates do

She is a woman who has consideration for the people of our country and promotes strength, rather than Trump who promotes hatred and fear.

I would vote Hillary because she doesn’t stand for hate. I really liked Bernie, but voting for him is like a vote for Trump at this point. Hillary isn’t a perfect nominee but her politics are fairly similar to Obama’s and I liked him so.

She cares about everyone with or without documents.

I chose Hillary Clinton because she doesn’t care if people from Mexico come to the United States and she also doesn’t abuse the Mexicans like Donald Trump.

She does not promote violence. I am a pacifist, so this is very important to me. She also would be a good diplomat, which I believe our country needs. She holds the most liberal views, so as a democrat, she represents my opinions the best out of the options.

She isn’t racist and doesn’t make fun of people like Donald Trump.

I would vote for Hillary Clinton because she is against the wall. Also because she is a woman and she is the first woman to run for president.

Although she has made mistakes in the past, she still treats every human with respect, unlike some of the other candidates.

She fights for the people and supports free trade/immigration. Immigration has been shown to improve the economy and it is a good world policy. Even though I am not LGBT, I appreciate that they are gaining rights as they should be free to do what they want. I also care about strong relations with other governments and many outside of the U.S. Disagree with other candidates’ views.

Donald Trump:

I don’t like Trump, but I line up with the beliefs of the Republican party and his cabinet.

He’s not her

I don’t like him, but I hate the political system more, and he is the biggest disruptive force to that system

There is Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump left, the economy is failing but it will fall apart faster with Hillary Clinton, she is untrustworthy.

I think this person is the best person to fix the economy in our country

Trump is a very successful business man, I believe that he could be the president that would help turn around some of our economical instabilities

He really cares about border security and keeping us safe. Also, he isn’t under investigation by the FBI lol

Hate him as a person, but agree with his policies on term limits for senators and hoepfully he’ll reform the obamacare health system.

He is blunt and will help these issues out

He speaks of issues that I believe in and support and he supports them too. He wants to change the way America is, he wants to make america great again. Hillary Clinton will say anything and do nothing.

Gary Johnson / Jill Stein / Other:

Jill Stein: She’s a Green Party candidate. She would take care of our climate problems. However, she would never win, realistically, so I would probably vote for Hillary.

Jill Stein: I’m not sure, but I don’t support trump or hillary

Gary Johnson: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both evil and want to do bad things, and even thought Gary Johnson is barely shown on the media, he has some GREAT ideas if he gets elected.

Gary Johnson: Limit the power and size of government and allow people more freedoms

Bernie Sanders: I felt like he genuinely cared about this country and is able to change the country for the better.

Bernie Sanders: He supports gay rights, and cares about the young people of America

Bernie Sanders: Although he is no longer on the ballot, I would vote because I know he genuinely cares about the people of the USA. He would be willing to listen and do the best he can to help the majority of people. He also supports a lot of youth movements which is important because younger liberals are the ones who are going to be stepping up as leaders in the near future. Changes need to happen now in order to make sure our aging youth can grow up in an age of equal opportunities.

Evan McMullin: He is conservative and he has well laid plans to not only boost the economy but tackle the problem of climate change

Question 8:


Question 9:


I think adults should definitely take into consideration what young people have to say because we are the future generation. The choice they are making right now will affect us as adults. They should hear our concerns.

They should know our opinion on who we would vote for and how much we actually do care and keep up with the election.

This is our country too. We are the next generation. I care about my country and the people in it. I want the President to be not only educated, qualified, and capable, but also someone that I, and other young people, can look to as an example. And Hillary Clinton is that person.

Adults should recognize that young people understand far more than they think we do, and that even though we can’t directly vote in the election, our opinions are valid and should be taken into account.

they should just generally be open-minded about listening to young people discuss the election and their opinions on the candidates. adults shouldn’t be looking down on us just because we’re young. our future is put into the hands of someone without our control, and that shouldn’t mean that we can’t be heard and express our feelings about everything.

How did you let these candidates come to be our next leader of the United States?

Adults should know that any young person who cares about the election as much as I do would do anything to get a vote. I understand 18 is the voting age for many good reasons, but I want every eligible adult to make their voices heard for the ones who cannot. That means young people like me as well as people in this country like immigrants or those who have been unfairly prevented from voting.

Adults should hear that their decisions, especially in this election season, will impact younger generations much more than themselves. Their children and grandchildren will be forced to live with the repercussions of destructive and ignorant choices, so CHOOSE WISELY!!

The young people are going to be here a lot longer than the old people are, so the young people should also have a voice.

The effect the presidential and local elections have on young people’s futures. (I would rather not be in $80,000+ in debt because of student loans)

Adults should listen to young people about rights that really affect them. If they wanted to change schools in, say, Arizona they should ask the children (and teachers) in Arizona.

That we maybe young, but we have opinions as well. This is our future. This election will determine the lives of many children and teenagers. We cant have a voice because people think just cause we are young we don’t care or don’t understand. When we DO care and we DO understand! Young people have new ideas and we are tired of the same old thing, and we are tired of people who don’t listen to the new ideas we have to make this country amazing! These people who don’t listen are in the offices of our government right now! All we ask is for someone who will change this country and make it amazing and will bring new ideas in with them and not the old ideas from the past that don’t this day and age.


That if they have the chance to vote to vote cause this world can become a mess with Trump. I’m scared to loose my mom and not see her again i lost my dad and i dont want to loose my mother too!!!!!!

Please don’t screw this up… just like seriously… don’t… we’ve gotta keep using this planet after you’re gone

The Kids’ Table Ensemble Members!

We are thrilled to announce our brilliant, creative ensemble for The Kids’ Table!  



Leonor Aispuro
Leonor Aispuro a local wardrobe stylist and fashion designer based in Phoenix


Paula Alvarado
Paula Alvarado is a survivor and a person that loves life who loves acting,skateboard and learning new things.


Eliana Burns
Eliana Burns is theatre president at her school, has been involved in dozens of shows and loves being involved in her community!


Matthew Dieckman
Matthew Dieckman is a performer from Phoenix, AZ who has been working in Portland, OR for the last six years and he is happy to be back in his hometown.


Nuvia Enriquez
Nuvia likes things things that start with T, i.e. tacos and theatre.


Liliana Gomez
Liliana Gomez is a choreographer and dancer based out of downtown phoenix.


Ashley Hare
Ashley doesn’t know if she loves animals or Beyoncé more. #slay #runtheworld #GetinFormation #animalsoveradultsbutnotyoungpeople


Anthony Kelly
Anthony James Kelly aka AKELLZ is a wallflower gone A.W.O.L with a mission of bringing the creativity in people from a state of “pause,” to a state of “motion.”


Carlos A. Lara
Carlos A. Lara is originally from Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico who has been working as an artist with various theatre companies through the Valley and is very excited to continue doing work in the theatre for social change and youth.


Matthew Mendez
Matthew Mendez is  a 16 year old performer who attends the Metropolitan Arts Institute.


Teresa Minarsich
Teresa Minarsich is an educator, puppeteer, director, and researcher who enjoys creating theatre with young people, and currently teaches at the North Valley Arts Academies.


Presley Nassise
Presley is a young disabled woman who loves to work in design and with others to create new forms of unconventional art.


Liz Polen
Liz Polen is a near native actor and teaching artist and grateful to be invited to this table.


Quinn Pursell
Quinn is a 15 year-old sophomore at Arizona School for the Arts, and he is passionate about discussing issues in the LGBT+ community.


Stephanie Santa Cruz
Stephanie Santa Cruz, a 14 year old freshman at the Arizona School for the Arts, has been involved in the arts since the age of 6.


Julio-Cesar Sauceda
Julio-Cesar graduated from Asu with a degree in theatre and enjoys working in all capacities in theatre.


Sarah Sullivan
Sarah Sullivan is a collaborative artist, administrator, and writer who thrives on creative idea-sharing and organizational systems.


Thameenah, often called Ty, is a fifteen year old senior who has been acting her whole life but has only been with RYT for a year.


Alex Tuchi
Alex Tuchi has been a part of the valley theatre community since 2010; although he does not know what his future holds, he hopes it has something to do with puppies and bad 80s music.


Thomas J. Underal
Thomas J. Underdal is a theatre practitioner interested in using theatre as a tool for social engagement and activism.


Xanthia Walker
Xanthia Angel Walker loves making theatre with rad youth and adult artists and traveling the world.


Grant Wayman
Grant Wayman is a performer, facilitator and teaching artist, currently attending the MFA Theatre for Youth program at Arizona State University, focusing on community engagement and ensemble devised performance with and for young people.


The Journey to The Kids’ Table

Apply to be part of Rising Youth Theatre’s season-long project!


Some are Beginning (our 1st production)

Some are Beginning (our 1st production)

When we started Rising Youth Theatre, almost 5 years ago we built the company around the following mission,

To create youth driven theatre that is riveting and relevant, challenging audiences to hear new stories, start conversations and participate in their communities.

In support of this mission, we have worked with some amazing community organizations to create powerful theatrical experiences – ranging from plays like Disengaged where we partnered with Genesis Academy to explore the high school dropout rate in our state to Shipwrecked created in partnership with youth in foster care to Fandom about the ways young people engage in fan culture.

But as we’ve been creating plays over the past four years, we have come to a few big realizations

Light Rail Plays 2016

Light Rail Plays 2016


We’re passionate about making the plays we produce accessible. This is true of how we make the plays. But as we produced plays inside of traditional theatres, we realized that it wasn’t always true of our performances. Our experiences creating The Light Rail Plays over the past three years helped us understand that we needed to push our work outside of traditional theatre spaces and explore what it means to invite our community to participate in new ways

We don’t want to make major decisions – decisions about what we create at Rising Youth Theatre, or how that art gets made – if there aren’t young people in the room, being part of that decision. We always involve young people in the work that we create, but to really meet the needs of our mission and the vision of our company, young people need to be part of the decision making process

As a result of this, when it came time to plan our next season, we decided that it couldn’t happen with just our leadership team alone in a room. We brought together a group of artists, both youth and adult, who are committed to Rising Youth Theatre, and spent several hours together over the course of multiple meetings. During that time we created the concept for our year-long project this year, The Kids’ Table. This project will interrogate the idea of a “kids’ table” and the way that we so often separate young people out from allegedly “adult” conversations. While there are many major issues in our community that impact youth (our education system, race and class, immigration, so many more), it is surprisingly rare that we ever hear directly from young people when these issues are discussed. Tis project will ask the question – “what might happen if ‘The Kids’ Table’ became a space where youth were not separated out, but integrated into the center of these dialogues, asking questions all over the city and creating are that continues the conversation across generations. Starting as community dialogue and culminating in a full production in May of 2017, we are eager to see what comes out of this cross-generational experience.

Season planning

Season planning

What we dream about for RYT

What we dream about for RYT

2016 Company Meeting

2016 Company Meeting










For all of the artists, both young people and adults who have worked with us before, and those who are new to our process  – we hope you will consider joining us for this adventure! There are a few different ways to get involved:


How to get involved

      • Attend Company Meetings. Throughout the fall, Rising Youth Theatre will host a series of company meetings to keep you updated on the project and the larger vision on the company! These will be held in our space at the Phoenix Center for the Arts. Events will be held every second Saturday (October 8, November 12, and December 10). 

How to get involved: Email Ashley (Ashley[at]risingyouththeatre.org) to make sure you’re on our mailing list, follow us on facebook/twitter/Instagram, and keep an eye out for invitations and updates

Time commitment: Drop in basis – up to you!

      • Attend Community Events. Throughout the fall, Rising Youth Theatre will host a series of community events! These will be held in spaces across the metro area. Join us and see what the Kids’ Table core ensemble has been creating. Anyone is welcome to attend these events and be part of creating this project, and you can attend as many as you like / are able to.

How to get involved: Email Ashley (Ashley[at]risingyouththeatre.org) to make sure you’re on our mailing list, follow us on facebook/twitter/Instagram, and keep an eye out for invitations and updates

Time commitment: Drop in basis – up to you!


      • Audition to be part of the production. Eventually, The Kids’ Table will become a full length play that we will produce for public audiences. We will open the audition process up beyond the core team, to other youth and adults in the community! Auditions will be held in March 2017 as we reach out to youth performers, designers and crew members.

How to get involved: Email Ashley (Ashley[at]risingyouththeatre.org) to make sure you’re on our mailing list, follow us on facebook/twitter/Instagram, and keep an eye out for invitations and updates. Audition notices will be posted in February 2017.

Time commitment: Full rehearsal schedule: 5 rehearsals/week March 27 – May 4, performances May 5 – 14, 2017.


We can’t wait to get you involved. Thanks for your enthusiasm and excitement that helped us generate this project! Feel free to reach out to us with questions on our emails:




Or through our social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Looking forward to sharing this experience with our community this year!


Sarah, Xanthia, and Ashley

Rising Youth Theatre

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