The Possibility Project involves 140 teenagers, ages 13 to 19, each year. They come from each of the five boroughs of NYC, and represent a vastly diverse range of cultures, sexualities, experiences, lifestyles and backgrounds.
Participants are selected through non-competitive “auditions.” Criteria for participant selection include need for the program, availability, willingness to collaborate with a diverse group of young people, and concern for the various issues facing young people today. No one is chosen on the basis of talent or ability.
ALEJANDRO “ALEX” BATRES – Saturday Cast, 2010-2012
“When I was first introduced to The Possibility Project I was 15 years old living in a 1 bed room Washington Heights apartment with a single mother with a family of five. My father was killed when I was two. I was one of those kids that parents didn’t want their kids around. I smoked weed every day and was member of a gang. I had a juvenile record of six arrests, and I dropped out of high school to sell drugs. I had a very bad temper so I would fight anyone who looked at me wrong. My life wasn’t going anywhere and I would wake up every morning just to be mad at what a disgrace I was and how terrible my situation was. My family was so disappointed in me – I felt they didn’t love me anymore so home didn’t feel like home. I would stay out all night long and sell drugs, get high, get drunk, etc. with my friends. I came to a point in life were I felt like taking my own gun, putting it to my head and pulling the trigger because I was afraid that was I going to die on the streets anyway. But I couldn’t do it to my mother.
One day when I felt like going to school I met one of the TPP directors, Jeff Flowers. He told me about a program that would help me bring change to my community. I thought he was crazy at first but for some reason I wanted to get involved. I showed up at the first rehearsal, I was skeptical about the activities that we were doing – singing, acting, holding hands, etc. I had never felt so weird in my life up until we wrote our stories on these index cards and taped them up on the wall. When we walked around and read everyone’s stories, I read about other kids who were in gangs. At that point, it was the first time in a long time I had let my guard down. I didn’t feel so alone.
I have now been a part of TPP for two years and I couldn’t be more grateful. I have made so many brothers and sisters who understand my life and don’t think I’m just a delinquent. I feel like I’m a part of something amazing.
When this year’s show was finished I saw I a smile on my mother’s face that I hadn’t seen since I was 13. I cried at how happy I was because she was proud of me. I now see potential and talent in myself that I never thought I even had. I also learned how to deal with my anger without violence or losing control. I learned how to talk to my mother without arguing and now our relationship is stronger than ever. I’m no longer in a gang and I’m not scared of what people think of me because I know that I’m going to make far in life, reach my goals, and live my dreams – as long as I remember to think positive and love and believe in myself.
I now see the value of education as well. I have been studying with friends from TPP who are willing to help. I have applied for my GED, and plan to go straight to college and pursue a career in both acting and music/audio production. More importantly I plan to change my community and make the world a better place. I would like to thank The Possibility Project with every ounce of my heart. You saved my life.”
NIQUANA CLARK – Foster Care Cast, 2009-2012
“About a year ago, I was sitting in my foster care agency office complaining about how bored I was with life in its entirety. So the education specialist there asked me what I would be interested in doing. I told her that I wanted to act, I wanted to be on stage. She told me about The Possibility Project, and suggested I go to an audition. I went to the audition with Shakespeare in mind and that sort of really cheesy, over the top theatre stuff. When I arrived, Paul asked everyone to bark like dogs and run around the room as if we were on fire. That’s when I knew not to expect anything and to just roll with it.
The first few weeks of rehearsal – because I tend to overanalyze things – I participated, but I also held back and watched everyone else. I didn’t want to stick out. Then we started to get to know each other. We did exercises that made it clear that we all have been through similar things. You think that no one can understand what you’ve been through because they weren’t there, sitting next to you. When you finally let it out, and it’s not a surprise to them – because they’ve had the same experiences – it’s comforting and sad all at the same time, because you don’t want anyone else to have to live through those things.
I’ve never spoken to other people about being in foster care – they tend to give you the ‘I’m sorry’ look. Here, no one feels sorry for you because they’re in the same situation and all they want to do is get out of it and help you get out of it. So instead of sympathy, it’s like a sense of respect and understanding. When I sat in that room and found out that other people in the circle have felt lost, don’t know exactly who they are or where they’re going, it made me want to be there even more. It’s a big relief to be able to speak about what has happened in my home for so many years and to have someone understand.
The first night of our show, I was nervous that I would mess up because I’d never performed before. When you’re on stage and you’re telling your story, you want someone to hear it – you hope they take something away from it. I was trying to see the audience reacting, but it was hard to tell what they were thinking. After I did my second scene, I was watching my cast members acting out our stories, and it got really emotional. We knew whose stories were being told, and when it’s yours – when your friend gets up there and plays the role of your mother, it’s intense. But it felt safe, and important that these stories are heard.
This year, we adapted our play “Know+How=” into a screenplay. I mean, my cast was already close, but after sharing our stories with one another and then telling on stage and now in film, I’ll just say I’ve never grown this close to any group of people and I can’t imagine not knowing them now. They are my family – the Artistic Directors (Elizabeth & Paul) are like Mom and Dad, the Program Managers (Kelly & Lamar) are like Aunt and Uncle, and the cast are like brothers and sisters.
Before, when people would ask me about my future, I would say “yeah, when I had a future.” I had stopped going to school, and I was bored with life. Now, I realize I was holding myself back. I finally graduated high school, and I’m trying to get into college to study acting. I have a job and am looking for a better one. I’m ready to just move on. And with the support of my “family” and knowing that I’m capable and smart, I finally feel like I have a future and I’m ready for it to happen.”