This fall, Rising Youth Theatre put together an ensemble of youth and adults to tackle a project called The Kids’
Table. 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.
We 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 Residency
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.
Keynote 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.
Significantly, 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.
Session 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.’”
Leading 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.
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.
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.