November 2018

Looking Back

We are now mid-semester in our Fall after-school programs and so excited to celebrate the amazing Opening Act ensembles being created throughout our partnering New York City Public High Schools. Take a look back at the first 6 weeks of the semester!

First Act 2 Saturday of the Semester: YOU UniversityYOU University

YOU University PhotoIn our Act 2 Saturday Series, we invite all students participating in OA programs to delve deeper into college and career skill building. Our first Act 2 Saturday of this fall semester was YOU University, students heard advice from OA alumni and used improv games to share their personal stories and discuss strategies in writing compelling personal essays.

Act 2, Opening Act’s College and Career Readiness program, aims to build upon the skills students develop as young actors to prepare them for the bright futures that await them. We support this growth by strengthening individual social-emotional competencies, building on the ensemble’s sense of community, and connecting students to a broader network of opportunities and connections.

“All of the students, even from different sites, were able to come up with scenes and tableaux early on a Saturday morning and make strides towards careers and college opportunities in their futures.”

– Cynthia Fontaine, Opening Act 2018-2019 Fellow


On Tuesday, October 16 we kicked off our #POWEROF10 campaign with a celebratory evening of performance, storytelling, and fundraising! With your help, we work together to support the development of committed leaders, innovators, and collaborators. In 10 days, through individual contributions and a generous matching grant from IHS Markit, Opening Act raised $110,000!

The Opening Act Student Leadership Company performs a play reading of a work in progress at the #POWEROF10 Kickoff Event at HBO. Photo by Stewart Vilillo.

We look back on our kickoff event with “10 Powerful Things We Learned From #POWEROF10”, reflections from OA staff members…

“Community is everything and at Opening Act ours is strong, supportive, loving and powerful.”  Erika Atkins, Acting Executive Director/Director of Operations and Communications

“As a parent of a teenager, I learned that even our best intentions to shape and influence young people’s behavior and actions can have the unintended effect of burdening them with undue stress. #WordsMatter!” – Gabrielle Gilliam, Director of Development

“I loved hearing how different people discovered Opening Act. From a Board Member who was drawn in from reading a tweet about OA, to a student who had to muster up every ounce of courage he could to step into his first OA class, everyone has a unique and special story about finding their home at Opening Act.” – Rachael Abbick, Executive Assistant

“I can fearlessly and confidently place a task on the shoulders of anyone from the Programs Team and they will rise to the challenge in ways that I could never imagine. After 4 years of running the Student Leadership Company, and 3 years of prepping them for that event, I handed the reins over to Dianna Garten and she was able to yield an amazing reading with the students.” – Marcus Johnson, Interim Director of Programs

“We have no idea where our students are coming from, what they’re going through, or what impact our programming could have on them when they first walk through our doors and that we have a responsibility and opportunity to provide all of them with a potentially life-changing experience.” – Matthew Greene, Act 2 College and Career Program Manager

“Every time I get the see the students perform, it reminds me exactly why we do what we do. We have just as much to learn from them as they do from us.” – Alex Scoolis, Development and Special Events Coordinator

“There is so much power in sharing your story. And there is so much beauty in being a part of a community that listens.” – Sarah Branch, Program Coordinator

“It really takes a village to raise a child.” – Cynthia Fontaine, 2018-2019 Alumni Fellow

“I enjoyed the devised theater the students created!” – Kandace Pound, Operations and HR Manager

“Owning your own story is a very powerful tool that will compel others to take action.” – Justin Daniel, Associate Director of After-School Programs

Everyday Celebrations & Accomplishments

It’s not only the big events and performances that remind us why our Opening Act students are so amazing, it’s also the everyday growth we witness in the classroom. Here are some highlights of those celebratory moments from our Teaching Artists:

“The students did some INCREDIBLE scene work today, making bold and brave choices and playing with patience. This group really seems to have each others’ backs.”

“Never underestimate the power of just showing up.”

“I loved that during the commitment talk, the students did most of the talking. It was really incredible to listen to them talking about succeeding and failing and what they needed to do to stay on course. One of the younger students said ‘I need to do this and show up for myself!”

“Our status conversation was fantastic. We talked about times in their lives where they felt high status and low status and when we asked where do you feel equal they all yelled ‘here!!’  We also asked what they liked about the workshop and one student said she loved the meditation because it let her let go of her school day and feel connected to the ensemble.”

Looking Ahead

As we enter the second half of our semester, Opening Act ensembles are being solidified, students are building trusting relationships with their peers and Teaching Artists, and acquiring strong foundations in improvisation, acting technique, and playmaking. Looking forward, we’re excited for more play, more fun, and more exciting opportunities to create and connect! Here are a few upcoming events and programs we can’t wait to share with you:

Upcoming Act 2 Saturday: Career Crash Course

Career Crash Course

Following the success of YOU University, our next Act 2 Saturday is coming up this November, titled “Career Crash Course”, hosted by The Actor’s Fund. Students attending this event will get a crash course in valuable career building skills such as crafting a resume, organizing your LinkedIn profile and navigating various job search engines.

Upcoming Events, Workshops, and Performances

Adults and teens are invited to attend an upcoming free MTC Family Matinee event on Saturday, November 17th at 10:00am at MTC’s Creative Center (311 W. 43rd Street, 8th Floor). MTC Family Matinees include a continental breakfast, a chance to explore acting, writing and directing in a workshop led by theatre professionals, and a ticket to attend a matinee performance of India Pale Ale by Jacklyn Backhaus, “a funny, poignant and timely new play about the triumphs and tragedies of a Punjabi-American family”. Click here for more information or to make a reservation – space is limited.

To celebrate this year’s amazing roster of Opening Act ensembles, student participants used one word to describe their unique ensemble. Here’s what they came up with:

Combined Ensembles - Word Cloud

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