How an after school program modeled after The 52nd Street Project in New York, engages young people and enhances learning through playwriting.
The Manton Avenue Project’s (MAP) mission is to bring out the unique potential of school-age children living in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence by amplifying their creative voices and mentoring them with professional artists to create original theater. This offers them the support and opportunities needed for positive personality development, increasing their creative potential and ability to navigate life’s challenges.
MAP was founded in 2004 by Jenny Peek, who having worked at the 52nd St. Project in New York City, came to Rhode Island to use that model to initiate a playwriting program among students in one of Providence’s low-income neighborhoods. She remained MAP’s director until Meg Sullivan came on board in 2011.
MAP encourages young people in Olneyville by offering positive life experiences in mastering the creation of a finished play, and to reap the rewards of that hard work with the excitement and joy of seeing their play performed by adult, professional actors, the pride in their accomplishment and the ego-pleasing applause of their adoring audience. The children experience successes that can be transferred to other aspects of their lives, and by engaging them in programming for multiple years (we work with the same children for at least five years), MAP regularly reinforces the belief in their own capabilities.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY OLD FAITHFUL: The National Park Plays
Written by 3rd and 4th grade MAP playwrights will be performed May 5-8, 2016
In celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th Anniversary, MAP is presenting 10 plays by young people, each set in a different national park. Happy Birthday, Old Faithful: The National Parks Plays is the culminating production of The Manton Avenue Project’s Playmaking program, an afterschool playwriting course held at MAP’s Clubhouse in Olneyville. Ten first time playwrights, 3rd graders and 4th graders, have each written a play about a National Park. For this project, The Manton Avenue Project partnered with the Roger Williams National Memorial. The playwrights have been learning about National Parks and the history of the National Park Service. Each playwright is writing a short play set in one of the United States’ 410 parks. The resulting production will be directed and performed by local actors from Providence’s thriving theatrical community.
“We’ve extended our programs to include teenagers. We’ve added a Friday class, which is our “fun Friday” to continue serving the young people that we work with, so they have a continuous weekly meeting here (at the clubhouse) to look forward to. And because we’ve been growing, we also need to grow our capacity,“ says Meg Sullivan.
“We are in a really critical moment in our organization’s life I think…for many reasons. We’ve been growing for the last 3 years since we opened the clubhouse. We are able to now serve teenagers who’ve been with us since the 3rd grade and want to stay involved… So we added a Teen Voices Project which meets every week,. We take them to see shows,… the lessons sort of have a weekly bonding time. We did a really cool writing project with the Providence Preservation Society last year… The teams each wrote a monologue from the perspective of an abandoned building… They were able to embody the hopes and the dreams of the building” Our next project with the teens is an oral history project… about “Home” and what “Home” means…they are going to interview someone from their family or someone from their community…to talk about “Home.” Which is such an interesting topic right now, in light of immigration, the refugees crisis in our country and sort of the idea concerning some of the terrible rhetoric around these days around immigrants. What does Home mean to you?”
Some exciting news is that MAP will be getting a space of its very own, a real community theater that will hold it’s plays and plays from other neighboring theater groups to use right down the street.
“We are over the moon,” says MAP’s board chair Kelly Seigh, “We are so grateful to RISCA and ONE Neighborhood Builders for believing in MAP and in our future. The Manton Avenue Project has long been seeking a theatre of our own to professionally produce our amazing young playwrights’ works. We are excited to work with ONE to create a thriving performing arts space in Olneyville. The future continues to brighten for MAP and for Olneyville.”
To find out more about The Manton Avenue Project, to donate, volunteer and participate in their community efforts, visit their website at http://mantonavenueproject.org/ or email them at email@example.com
by Joseph Shansky