Announcing the launch of our new program: AlterTheater's Arts Learning Project for Native Youth.
The Arts Learning Project is an artist-led education program specifically designed for tribal youth. We are asking for your help to provide education programming to those most at-risk of contracting COVID if they return to school. AlterTheater’s workshops can be used as part of a homeschooling program for grades 6-12, or as an enrichment program.
To provide a semester’s worth of programming, we need to raise $112,500.
This program is structured to be scaffolded, which means that every time we raise another $7,500, we can add another week-long workshop.
How we know this works:
AlterTheater just finished a weeklong pilot workshop for tribal youth called Crafting Story with Your Voice, and it was a hit! In partnership with Lucentree and Tall Tree Indigenous Education Consulting, playwright Vickie Ramirez (Tuscarora) led a class teaching 15 Native American students how to write a monologue. The workshop culminated with professional Native actors joining the workshop. The professional actors had been about to start rehearsals for AlterTheater’s production of Vickie’s play Pure Native when the pandemic shut everything down. On hold until things reopen, our Pure Native actors joined the workshop on the final day to perform the students’ monologues live.
At the beginning of the week we asked the students to come up with characters and to think about their characters' lives: what do they want, who do they want to be, what scares them the most—and by the end of the week they shared so much of their own experiences and lives through the lives of the characters they had built. From a detective duck looking for a murderer to a girl who tested positive for COVID quarantining from her family; from a jock with dreams of becoming a dancer to a Native woman fighting for suffrage in the 1920s—the stories they shared gave us a wonderful taste of the humor, interests, and worries of Native kids today.
Throughout the week we heard feedback about how meaningful the program is: helping kids learn how to speak their own truths, share space with adult artists with similar experiences, and dream about their futures through theater.
Teresa Melendez of Tall Tree Indigenous Education Consulting and our tribal liaison, said of this week, “I know that success for college students depends on resiliency, and self-advocacy. And the ability to speak for themselves. A lot of our kids don’t know how to speak for themselves. There’s so much power in being able to write and then speak your experience, and speak about their passions. How can we step up and empower our kids in ways that the public school system can’t?"
Melendez and Jeanette Harrison, AlterTheater Artistic Director, reflected on common themes among the students’ work: "The three oldest girls, 14-15 year olds, are all writing about invisibility, and ways in which invisibility is harmful. They are already, at their young ages, picking up on what we as adults are only just learning to vocalize.”
Many of the students expressed immediate interest in ongoing theater classes. Can you help us rise to this challenge? While COVID prevents us from producing Pure Native and the rest of our usual programming, we are excited to use our skills to meet our community’s needs right now. Buoyed by the success of our pilot week of programming, we are raising funds to put together an entire semester of curriculum centered on the needs and interests of Native communities we are working with. Our professional artists, on hold from Pure Native, were deeply inspired by the creativity and humor and insight of the youth in our workshop, and parents report that their kids are raving about the relationships being built among Native youth and professional working Native artists. We eventually want to have a full spectrum of classes that include drop-in improv classes, stand-up comedy, comic book and episodic writing, dialogue and scene study, and more—all taught by Indigenous artists.
To offer a semester’s worth of classes (15 weeks) we need to raise $112,500. To create one week of programming for tribal youth that can be used as part of a homeschooling program with Common Core ELA standards or as an extracurricular arts enrichment program costs $7,500. For every $7,500 we raise, we can add a week of programming.
We're already part of the way there.
In support of a touring production of Pure Native, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded AlterTheater a $15,000 grant, and they’re allowing us to repurpose it for these workshops….as long as we match it dollar for dollar. AND we’ve just received a pledge for $7,500 from the Brooks Family Charitable Trust, which gets us 50% of the way to our match, and means that we can start planning two full additional weeks.
Can you help us get to a full semester of classes? Your gift will help the next generation of Native youth develop the craft and confidence to tell their stories. And their stories are ones the world needs to hear.
2) Screenshot from AlterTheater's pilot workshop
4) Matt Kizer (Washoe) and Nick Garcia (Pueblo) perform in AlterTheater's The River Bride by Marisela Treviño Orta; photo by Benjamin Privitt.