June was a busy month for teens at Berkeley Rep. Two special occasions gave high-school students the chance to be part of local and national conversations about the future of theatre.
What happens when 35 teenagers, representing a range of 20 Bay Area high schools and interests, are given a venue and a platform to discuss the value of art in their own lives?
You might get something a little like the Teen Theatre Conference hosted by the Berkeley RepSchool of Theatre early in June. An energetic group of teens, many new not only to each other but also to Berkeley Rep, came together for a day of collaboration and dialogue, voicing their opinions about the issues they encounter as young artists, students of arts education, and theatregoers.
The Teen Theatre Conference had many exciting components, such as a Q & A panel with local theatre professionals, including Rachel Fink, director of the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre; Dave Maier, a fight choreographer and School of Theatre Outreach Coordinator; freelance director Rebecca Novick; actor Carson Elrod from Berkeley Rep’s recent production of In the Wake; and Raelle Myrick-Hodges, artistic director of San Francisco’s Brava! for Women in the Arts.
The conversations sparked by the panel continued with discussions led by teenage representatives of the School of Theatre. These sessions explored how young people share, define, and experience art. The day’s program commenced with a competition: six groups of teens were challenged to create and perform sketches inspired by various, topical prompts such as "Arts in the Year 2075" or "A World with No Arts." Videos of the first- and second-place winners are at the bottom of the post.
The Teen Theatre Conference was a great success thanks to its attendees, and especially a handful of the School of Theatre’s Teen Council members, some of whom took on leadership roles at the conference. With this kind of thinking and discourse fresh in their minds, a group of six teenage girls from the School then took their ideas to a national level.
Berkeley Rep Teen Council members Matia Emsellem, Taylor Greenthal, Christina Novakov-Ritchey, Keisa Reynolds, Ariele Scharff, and Gareth Tidball were part of the first delegation of teenagers to participate in the annual Theatre Communications Group (TCG) Conference in Chicago. Joined by peers from Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre, the girls spent four days participating in activities, discussions, and forums helmed by some of the country’s top theatre professionals. TCG also graciously paired each of the teens with a "conference mentor," a previous attendee who could act as touchstone for each teen during their Chicago experience.
Among the highlights of the conference were a special performance at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and a sneak peek at the final dress rehearsal of a new play at the Goodman Theatre. There was also dinner and a special prep session at the Goodman with the other Chicago teens to prepare for the culmination of their conference experience: a session entitled Fostering the Next Generation of American Theatre Audiences moderated by educators from Berkeley Rep, the Goodman, and Steppenwolf. The teens had the opportunity to share their thoughts with industry leaders, on building committed relationships with young audiences for theatre today and tomorrow.
The teens will share their impressions of the conference in an upcoming blog post.
Above photos: Winners of the "Arts in the Year 2075" or "A World with No Arts" sketch competition at the Teen Theatre Conference. Top photo (from left): First-place winners Keyera Lucas-Evans, Oakland Tech; Linnaea Weld, Oakland Tech; Savannah Van Leuvan-Smith, St. Mary’s College High; Kyle McReddie, Piedmont High School; and Ben Oldham, Oakland School for the Arts. Lower photo: Second-place winners Eddie Feeney-Land, George Washington High; Kenton Barks, Skyline High; Kenya Hall, Oakland Tech; Kenya Granich, College Prep; and Ariele Scharff, Berkeley High.
Here are the first-place winners in action:
And here are the second-place winners with their sketch:
Wonderful work. Congratulations.
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