The Possibility Project’s model program integrates training in the performing arts disciplines—acting, improvisation, dance, movement, voice, singing, and playwriting—into a creative process that allows youth to explore their experiences and identities in relation to the social forces shaping their lives.
Through our programs, youth participants discover their personal narrative at the center of these buffeting forces and use the “safe space” of the rehearsal room to mediate conflicts and learn to work together to achieve a common goal and shared vision. They develop their “voice” on important personal and social issues and gain critical communication skills, bringing a new perspective to their families, friends, and communities and working to effect positive change. And, they build a critically important community together to address their challenges and support their aspirations.
To achieve these outcomes, participants in each program work together to achieve two shared goals: 1) write, produce, and perform an original musical theater production about their lives and ideas for change, and 2) design and execute a community action project that makes an impact on an issue of concern to them in their communities.
Each program is led by a team of young people, called the Production Team, working in collaboration with each program’s Artistic Director and professional artists. All four programs follow a model timeline of activities with adaptations made by Production Teams according to the needs of the youth they are leading.
TPP CREATIVE PROCESS TIMELINE
MONTH 1: RECRUITMENT
Youth participants, ages 13 to 20, are selected through a non-competitive, group “audition” process based on their availability and willingness to engage with peers, confront the various issues that young people face, and commit to the goals of the program – no one is ever chosen on the basis of talent.
MONTH 1: YOUTH LEADERSHIP
A Production Team of 6-10 youth are responsible for the overall vision of their program. They take part in 6-8 pre-production training sessions to develop their leadership abilities. They then meet weekly to set policy on issues involving participants; assess and plan rehearsals, hire and oversee staff and artists, and communicate regularly with other youth.
MONTHS 2 – 4: TRAININGS
Students participate in acting, improvisation, dance, voice, movement, singing, and playwriting classes at each rehearsal. Emphasis is placed on the improvement of performing arts skills and the development of excellence as a personal and group standard for production.
TPP diversity training and conflict analysis utilizes the curriculum of violence prevention trainers Paul Kivel and Alan Creighton, outlined in “Helping Teens Stop Violence.” These trainings examine the use of power in relationships and the construction of “isms” in our culture. Combining interactive exercises with extensive discussion, youth are provided a framework from which to understand the value of diversity and analyze conflict in their own lives and communities.
After dissecting the causes of conflict, participants learn a partnership model for resolving conflicts developed by Dudley Weeks, author of “Eight Steps to Conflict Resolution.” This model is presented and implemented in a safe environment through role-playing. Peer-to-peer suggestions for strategies are discussed and scenes played again to improve effectiveness. This activity gives participants a dynamic, low-risk means for exploring new, non-violent ways to address conflicts.
Participants also use these activities and discussions as a foundation from which to create dramatic scenes that illustrate the causes of conflict in their daily lives at home, at school or on the streets. Utilizing their newly honed performing arts and analytical skills, youth construct scenes that illustrate the causes of the conflicts they face; they also utilize the conflict resolution model and strategies to construct scenes that illustrate potential resolutions to these conflicts.
MONTHS 2 – 3: ISSUE EXPLORATION/REHEARSAL WORKSHOPS
In a typical rehearsal workshop, youth will begin by focusing on a specific issue identified by one or more participants, such as racism, gender inequities, urban violence, or discrimination against youth. Their discussion is then incorporated into performing arts workshops that help teens understand the causes, dimensions and complexities of the issue. Participants translate their learning into scenes constructed from their experiences.
MONTH 5: PERFORMANCE OUTLINING
On a retreat weekend, the Production Team, Artistic Director, and Assistant Artistic Director construct an outline from the raw material of scenes, writings, discussions, and presentations. Outlines might include narratives that deal with racial discrimination, family violence, or poverty. These stories are then brought together and unified by a theatrical metaphor, chosen by the Production Team, which provides coherence and meaning to the performance’s structure and the issues addressed through it.
MONTH 5: CASTING
The Artistic Director and Assistant Artistic Director assign participants to the roles established in the outline. Selection is not based on artistic ability, but on the needs of each teen with respect to the issues addressed in each scene and the individual challenges they would benefit most from taking on (although no cast member ever acts in his or her own story).
MONTHS 5 – 8: PERFORMANCE REHEARSALS
Participants create, write, rehearse and refine their performance. Each is responsible for creating his/her part in collaboration with other scene partners. The Artistic Director, Assistant Director, and volunteer acting coaches work to shape the scenes and ready them for the stage, but do not decide their content or outcome.
Youth are taught and guided by professional artists to the highest standards within the participants’ abilities in the disciplines of music, dance and drama. The Artistic Director, Assistant Artistic Director, Musical Director and Choreographer lead the creation of the larger ensemble pieces in collaboration with participants. Decision-making is based on consensus and active dialogue about the issues and messages to be presented.
MONTHS 7 – 8: PERFORMANCE
The premiere performances of the original musicals are significant community events where participants’ family, friends, teachers, and peers, as well as foster care, the justice system and educational system workers and leaders, come together to witness the culmination of the youths’ efforts. As an audience, they experience a work of theater that utilizes a wide range of the performing arts to articulate the reality of life for youth and a vision for positive change.
MONTHS 9 – 10: COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Community Engagement. Participants work together to choose community issues on which to focus their efforts. They then design and lead community action projects that will make a positive impact on the issues they identify as important and is capable of being completed in one day. Examples of these projects are available for viewing on The Possibility Project channel on YouTube at “possibilityproj.”
Each of these projects offers opportunities for youth to hone communication and negotiation skills, address critical cultural and social issues in the community, enable participants to work for and experience community change, and develop leadership through interaction with real-world obstacles and processes