Youth Ensemble Project: Cleveland Public Theatre’s Brick City Theatre youth ensemble at Station Hope

On April 26th 2014, Cleveland Public Theatre’s Brick City Theatre youth ensemble, ages 5-14, shined as they performed their original play, Hide&Seek, at Station Hope, a free, one-night-only multi-arts event that celebrated the triumphs of the Underground Railroad, the history of St. John's Church and the contemporary struggles for freedom and justice. Over 2000 Cleveland community members attended and over 400 witnessed the fierce Brick City Theatre performers. Shajuana, the leader of the ensemble, shares her experience of creating and performing with Brick City Theatre youth ensemble.

“FLOW” by Shajuana, 14 year old member of CPT’s Brick City Theatre youth ensemble

Being at Station Hope was an amazing experience. It truly brought joy to my heart to see my community praise and remember St John’s role in the Underground Railroad. When performing, I remember being extremely nervous even though I’ve been performing almost all of my life. I have been in CPT’s programs since I was about 8 and last year, I participated in STEP and was in the show, “And One Night.” Today, I am a Junior Instructor at Brick City and help the teachers do the awesome things you see in our shows. I also am a little helper by passing out snack.  

The process of making the original play for Station Hope was pretty cool. At first, I didn’t know what wasgoing on and that made all my art that I created even more magical because I wasn’t put in a box of how my work should look or sound like. We wrote stories and played games and sung songs. A lot of the time the kids were bursting with ideas and a lot of things we did got their imaginations flowing. That’s basically how devised theatre works. You just go with the flow. And sometimes you might not know where you are exactly going but the more you work the clearer the vision and everything flows together: that’s the power of ART!

Brick City Theatre means so much to me. This program introduced me to the theatre life and I am truly grateful for that. It is this program that taught me that life doesn’t have to be serious all the time! Have fun! Loosen up! At times I am tempted to tell the kids to settle down and being more serious, but then I stop, I breathe and let their little busy bodies and minds run all over – I refuse to interrupt their FLOW. That’s what these kids mean to me. I love them so much because they teach me that life is sometimes fun and games! I’m so happy they get this lesson at this age. I’m pretty sure they don’t understand it now but when they are in their teens, like me, Brick City memories will flash before their eyes at stressful times and they will understand one of the many beautiful things about Brick City and being a part of an ensemble. I thank God and Ms. Faye and my mom for showing me this awesome way of expressing myself and pushing me to do great things. The end. - Shajuana

Cleveland Public Theatre’s education programs are committed to ensemble creation, celebration of diverse voices and the belief that art can change lives. Shajuana, who will soon turn 15, has been a member of Brick City Theatre since she was 8 years old and this past summer she graduated into our teen program, the Student Theatre Enrichment Program (STEP). Brick City Theatre offers year round afterschool and summer theatre arts programs in Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority communitycenters for children ages 5-14 who live in public housing. Every session culminates with a presentation of an original work, created and performed by the youth participants. Student Theatre Enrichment Program (STEP) is now in its 20th year and is Cleveland’s longest running arts and job training program. STEP works with Cleveland teens to create an original performance that tours to Cleveland city parks over the summer. STEP is made possible through the support from Cleveland City Council and other contributors. 

–Faye Hargate, CPT’s Education Associate and Program Director of Brick City Theatre 

Photos by Bob Perkoski

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Monday, May 19, 2014
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