The Hilltown Youth Performing Arts Program is an innovative year round after school and summer performing arts program. Our mission is to build supportive, creative communities and to put on great shows! It is part of an effort to use theater to create a larger sense of community that transcends buildings and school campuses and instills in young people a sense of place and appreciation of rural hilltown life. Through our work with Double Edge Theatre, Chrysalis Theatre, Knighthorse Theatre, Homunculas Mask Theatre and other luminaries in the social justice and performing arts fields we try to introduce young artists to opportunities that stretch them beyond the boundaries of Western Massachusetts. Experiences that help them see the world outside our home in Charlemont, Massachusetts while still being rooted here. Images from the students’ training and performances show a vibrant culture invested in environmental stewardship, community collaboration and mentorship of the next generation of artists, global citizens and leaders.
The program began in 2010 and includes: the HILLTOWN YOUTH THEATRE SUMMER WORKSHOP providing intensive training, artistic and professional skill building and leadership development for young performers, musicians, artists and set designers and a six month THEATRE ENRICHMENT PROGRAM for nine towns and five small, community-based elementary schools underserved by the arts. In 2015, in response to a statewide opioid crisis, we launched our newest initiative, the RECOVERY THEATRE, a performing arts experience for young people overcoming trauma, addiction, anxiety, depression and other behavioral health challenges. It is a space where teens struggling with mental health issues are valued as artists not patients. As one ensemble member observed, “The community holds itself together and loves every person it holds.” Part of its strength lays in the fact that it is not a clinic, agency or hospital. Put simply, it is a home for anyone living with circumstances that present barriers to them becoming their fullest selves.
This summer, in 2019, our staff has been hard at work. We are working on a YouthMapping research project for the Opioid Task Forces of Franklin County, as a United Way of Franklin County partner we continue to staff UW events and are performing at the UW-FC campaign kickoff on August 27th. We are giving newspaper interviews, filing non-profit paperwork, talking to families and kids considering joining our programs, writing grants, hosting fundraising events, and moving into our new space - all while we gleefully write scripts and think about the artistic vision for the summer. In short, we're busy and we're happy.
And all this work is paying off! As of 6/25, with the generous help of Attorney Kevin Maynard from the Springfield based firm of Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, LLP we were incorporated and are on our way to becoming our own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization! Sen. Adam Hinds and Rep. Paul Mark were able to secure $15,000 for the Recovery Theatre in the state budget, a number they hope to increase in future years. The numbers for the summer workshop are swelling, we think we'll hit 60 kids enrolled, at least. Our full week Recovery Intensive, our largest ever, will be located in our gorgeous new space at The Mill in Shelburne Falls. We’re hoping to put the trapeze up on the grounds for the first time there. This is a landmark summer for our programs.
But we need your help. We have more students on scholarships this year than ever before, and there are many other needs we still have. We are asking our community for your support this summer. As hard as we work, there is always more to do and more things we need. Every person and every family can give in different ways, we are so grateful to anything you can contribute. Here is a list of asks, and ways to support Hilltown Youth:
- $800 will sponsor a recovery theatre ensemble member to attend the three-week Summer Workshop.
-$450 will cover the cost of a young person to attend the summer Recovery Intensive
- $2500 will pay to install the trapeze for the Recovery week at the Mill in Shelburne Falls, $8000 will pay for it to be up at the Mill as well as Berkshire East the rest of the summer.
- $300 will purchase one set of indoor rigging for an aerial silks to be installed in our new space (our hope is to put up ten total)
- $1800 will replace our aging silks and allow us to purchase crash mats for them, which we desperately need.
The entire leadership team works tirelessly because we, without exception, have had our lives changed by the work we do and we see how it affects others. I hope you're proud of this culture we've created together too. We invite you to donate to our programs, every dollar helps.
Thank you for your generosity,
The Hilltown Youth Leadership Team