Tue 8/1-Fri 8/11
Part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s mission to change lives and raise compassion through groundbreaking performances and life-changing education programs. Encompassing both of those sentiments is its Student Theatre Enrichment Program (STEP).
Entering its 23rd year, low-income urban Cleveland teens are exposed to rigorous arts education and job training. The eight-week intensive program, which involves writing, crafting and performing an original play, provides a source of income, but more importantly acts as a launching pad for them to reach their dreams.
This year’s 40-teen STEP class presents And Yet, We Shine Tue 8/1-Fri 8/11 at various Cleveland parks, schools and CMHA community centers.
CoolCleveland talked to STEP co-director and CPT education manager Adam Seeholzer about these amazing kids.
Tell us a little bit about STEP.
This year we have three stories within the play. The theme came from the idea of stories of resistance. Each mini-play is its own little journey based on that, coming from the student’s own writing, experiences and creations in the rehearsal room.
What kind of stories can audiences expect with And Yet, We Shine?
The first small tale within the big play is kind of the idea of those who are turning the age of 16 are left with the choice of either living an indoor or outdoor life, which is a metaphor in itself. They’re pressured to make this decision. They come up with a plan to overthrow that government that they’re living in and you see how their plan works out.
The second piece is a retelling of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. It’s about resisting conformity. The third story is a journey of two brothers going on a road trip to be with their father. On that journey they discover that maybe it’s not all about the fame. And when they do meet their estranged father, he’s not necessarily what they had hoped and dreamed for.
Thematically, And Yet, We Shine delves into some deep territory. What kind of impact does STEP make in the community?
It’s a job training program to have teenagers who don’t have the opportunity in the arts programs either in school or in their lives within the Cleveland area to work with masters of a given trade. There’s a tech team making the costumes and the set. And there’s the cast team where they’re developing and making the actual play. The job training program gives them the experience of hard work, dedication, commitment and discipline. Also, they’re presenting that show to the community for free and kind of sharing their voice of what they believe and want.
How are the STEP participants selected?
In March and April, we post audition notices and send fliers to all of the CMHA schools and nearby recreation centers saying come audition for anyone who is interested in the arts, working hard this summer and making a difference. We do a three-hour audition workshop and select from there. We’re not necessarily looking for the most talented, we’re looking for the teen that is going to try and willing to say yes and put forth an effort that shows that they care about the work and that they understand what it means to be a part of a team.
Finally, what do you hope audience take away from these STEP teens?
I hope they take away that Cleveland is more than just the fancy basketball teams and the cool restaurants and a housing market that seems to be booming. That behind all of that is us Clevelanders that have been here our whole lives and are making good work. That even teens of this community have a lot to offer and they also know what it takes to work hard and what it takes to make a successful work of art just with a little bit of guidance and push. That they have it within themselves, they just need the space and time and energy along with it to make that work.