Arts Garage, a multidisciplinary arts hub in Delray Beach, prides itself on a commitment to education. From the private and ensemble lessons available at their Performing Arts Academy to their outreach initiatives, they definitely have a lot to brag about.
"Right from the inception of Arts Garage, we recognized that programming for young people should be as important as anything that we do," explains Lou Tyrrell, the artistic director for Arts Garage.
Last year, Tyrrell undertook an ambitious educational outreach program, entitled Stage It. Using theater and playwriting as a medium, he aimed to not only create theater-goers, but to help kids develop a stronger sense of self as well. This year, in conjunction with the upcoming Arts Garage production Exit, Pursued by a Bear, Tyrrell hopes to continue his crusade.
"We're using theater and the entertainment value of theater to address core curriculum for young people," says Tyrrell. "It's an experience that they never forget."
Here's how the Stage It program works: High School students from Tomorrow's Promise Charter School will attend a performance and then write their own monologues, not necessarily about the production but inspired by themes presented in the show. While Exit, Pursued by a Bear highlights domestic abuse, Tyrrell believes the students will be able to apply the dramatic situation to their own experiences of being bullied.
Last year's Stage It play was about Woody Guthrie, the Dust Bowl's famous troubadour and the inspiration behind such folk greats as Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan. Tyrell explains that the students took the discussion of the Great Depression and found parallels to the problems they face growing up in the Great Recession. They were able to both see the connection between life and art, and also explore their own feelings, eventually expressing those feelings through playwriting.
After the students complete their monologues, Arts Garage will choose a handful to present in a group performance in January. In this way, the project addresses many facets of theatrical production, from inspiration to writing to rehearsal and, finally, performance.
"When they write something and they have that positive experience of personal expression and a successful refinement of their own writing, then to actually learn the material and perform it takes them to a different level of personal expression that is very meaningful," says Tyrrell.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear runs from December 7 through 30. To purchase tickets or lean more about Arts Garage and the Stage It program, visit artsgarage.org.