Wednesday, November 22, 2017

TYA/USA Ann Shaw Fellowship: Xanthia Walker and Sarah Sullivan’s 2010 Project

Funding from the Ann Shaw Fellowship has been transformative for both of us and instrumental in building the Collaborative Youth Plays Project. Before we received this funding, this project had been a dream of ours, something we hoped to eventually achieve. The Ann Shaw Fellowship pushed us into motion and began a really exciting year of traveling, researching and connecting with theatre companies around the country that create original work via collaborations with youth and professional artists. Between August and December 2010, we visited, interviewed and collected scripts from five different theatre companies: The Mosaic Youth Theatre in Detroit, MI, Redmoon Theater in Chicago, IL, The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA, The Virginia Avenue Project in Los Angeles, CA and QSpeak in Phoenix, AZ. We primarily used our funding to travel to Atlanta, where we saw a production of Middle School The Musical at Alliance and met with the amazing Rosemary Newcott to talk about Alliance’s collaboratively created work with youth.

It was the funding from Ann Shaw that really afforded us the opportunity to begin—to get this research project out of the realm of possibility and into reality. As we collect scripts and interview transcripts, we are compiling them to be kept in the Child Drama Archive at Arizona State University. Beginning this project also gave us the opportunity to test our research model, and now that we know it yields incredibly useful and valuable information, we will continue to use the model that we’ve built through this project over the next few years of researching, organizing and curating this material. After this year of research, and our initial ventures into interviews and documentation, we feel that we understand even more deeply the value of this project. This helps us to present ourselves with authority to a range of organizations as we move forward with the project. We look forward to meeting with more organizations, hearing about the amazing work they are creating with youth and building a comprehensive collection of youth created scripts in the Child Drama Archive. Ultimately, we plan to publish an anthology of a selection of these plays, and for the Collaborative Youth Plays Project to be an ongoing research endeavor to which organizations can continue to contribute their scripts.

Beyond our initial benefits of building our research and model, we have benefited tremendously from the opportunity to interact and engage with other professionals in the field, doing work that inspires and enthuses us. As the two of us embark on the adventure of starting our own theatre company, Rising Youth Theatre, dedicated to creating original work with young people, we are truly lucky to connect with these remarkable professionals who offer us ideas, inspiration and resources for our current and future work in the field. Each company we visited welcomed us, our questions and our project with enthusiasm and commitment, and we deeply appreciated this experience to connect with members of our theatre for youth community.

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