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Theater Breaking Through Barriers Brings Catharsis to At-Risk Youth via Sing for Hope

Sing for Hope is proud to announce an exciting new Cultural Partnership Program that supports NYC-area arts organizations in their efforts to increase reach, diversify audiences, and model civic spirit. The Sing for Hope Cultural Partnership Program is a go-to resource for arts organizations that want to engage communities on a broader scale, but may not have the budget or bandwidth to establish a full community outreach department.

Provided free of charge to participating arts non-profits, the Sing for Hope Cultural Partnership Program connects arts organizations with appreciative new audiences in under-resourced communities. Sing for Hope handles coordination and logistics for the programs, which range from in-hospital concerts to theatre workshops for underserved youth to collaborative painting sessions in veterans’ centers.

Cultural Partners Theater Breaking through Barriers help dedicate a new Sing for Hope Piano at New York Children’s Center in the Bronx.

Sing for Hope Co-Founder Camille Zamora says, “Thanks to an generous anonymous donor, we are able to offer our new Cultural Partnership Program completely free of charge to the vibrant arts non-profits that make our city so great. Sing for Hope Cultural Partners receive a turn-key arts outreach program that broadens their audiences and impact without having to expend resources on navigating city agencies, infrastructures, etc. Our team handles all logistics pro bono, and the arts companies get to focus on what they do best: creating meaningful art for great audiences. We love what we’re hearing back from our new Cultural Partners report: the program is fun and different for their artists, and transformative for their brand and mission.”

One of Sing for Hope’s terrific new Cultural Partners is the outstanding Theater Breaking through Barriers (TBTB). TBTB is one of the few professional theaters in the country dedicated to advancing actors and writers with disabilities and changing the image of people with disabilities from dependence to independence. TBTB organized and ran a 10-week drama workshop for students at New York City Children’s Center (NYCCC) in the Bronx, which provides behavioral health care services to youth ages 5 to 21 with serious emotional disturbances.

Nicholas Viselli, Artistic Director of TBTB, said, “When Sing for Hope first approached us about bringing our work to New York City Children’s Center, we knew we wanted to get involved. We created an intensive program, led by company member David Rosar Stearns, to help these great kids write their own material to rehearse and perform, while also learning about theatre production, creativity, and self-expression.”

David described his experience this way:  

The only thing that I really knew for sure going into this was that many of these kids had been handed a raw deal, coming from home environments that involved abuse, neglect, and tremendous instability. Out of the fifty some residents, the staff hand picked those children they thought would best benefit from the program and who showed a sincere interest in participating. My group consisted of eight teenagers from 15-17 years old. Since many of the young people were not native English speakers, I was paired with an English teacher, who would be present at all classes according to protocol.

David Rosar Stearns

Over the weeks, we learned about ourselves and each other through playing improv games, doing writing exercises, and singing musical theatre songs. “Defying Gravity” and “For Good” from Wicked, and “Quiet Uptown” and “My Shot” from Hamilton, all became standards for our little group. There would often be tears when hearing these lyrics… One week I did an anonymous writing exercise where the prompt was “Tomorrow I—“ and we concluded the class singing “Tomorrow” from Annie. Reading through the writings on my way home that afternoon, I came across these words: “Tomorrow I will forgive the person who raped me.” In that moment, and many comparable ones, I was brought quickly back to the reality of what these children had been through, and the importance of the catharsis that we can make possible for them through the gift of art. Throughout the workshop the kids thrived, they became more vocal, braver, and softer in what is a very harsh reality. Theater class became an escape, which is what I had hoped it would be for them.

Luis Pinon, Principal of New York City Children’s Center, said, “The theatre program that Sing for Hope brought us, Theatre Breaking through Barriers, has been a welcome delight for our students, and has motivated some students to improve their behavior so as to participate. David has been genuinely interested in assisting our youth to unlock their inner talents and express themselves. Only positive comments from children and staff!”

Sing for Hope welcomes organizations to join in sharing art with communities in need. For more information, contact Michelle Femminella, Director of Volunteer Service, at m.femminella@singforhope.org.

Artists from Sing for Hope Cultural Partner The Richard Tucker Foundation share a song at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

National Theatre of Scotland leads a lively movement workshop as part of their Cultural Partnership with Sing for Hope.

 

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