March 2019


The start of the semester has brought new and returning actors to Opening Act programs across our 55 partner schools! February was full of excitement as Teaching Artists reconnected with their ensembles and jumped back into exploring themes, ideas, and issues that are important to them, asking, “What would YOU like to see on stage?”  

Start of Programs

First week of programs; Teaching Artists Stewart Villilo and Hayley Sherwood at Grace Dodge

Opening Act D79 and core-after school programs are in full swing! With Midwinter Recess over, Teaching Artists are eager to re-engage in the EXPLORATION and CREATION process for the Spring semester. Through EXPLORATION, actors use skills they developed last semester, alongside idea generating games and activities to identify themes, genres, and concepts they may want to incorporate into their playmaking. Through CREATION, actors explore characters, relationships, and create a world for them to live within. We can’t wait to see what each ensemble comes up with!

Teaching Artist Professional Development, “Devising Deep Dive with The TEAM”

Opening Act Teaching Artists with Kristen Sieh and Jessica Almasy from THE TEAM

Teaching Artists attended their first professional development session of the Spring on February 25th, with a collaborative devising workshop facilitated by the Brooklyn-based ensemble, THE TEAM! THE TEAM combines aggressive athleticism with emotional performance to create new work surrounding the experience of living in America today. Devised theater is a collaborative, ensemble-based approach to collectively creating, writing and developing a piece of theater, and is central to the “Creation Process” of the Spring semester of Opening Act workshops. With new tools, connections, and resources, this session left Teaching Artists with a renewed excitement to think outside of the box while playmaking with their ensembles!

Everyday Celebrations & Accomplishments

Returning actors, as well as new ensemble members, have hit the ground running, making new discoveries and connections every workshop! We’re excited to share some of these many everyday celebrations and accomplishments with you:

  • “Our entire workshop was an impactful moment. We had a student who was resistant to every concept, every core principle of Opening Act. We sat with him for two hours, simply reviewing our Living Contract and unpacking all the words and feelings that the agreements brought up. We unpacked values vs. monetary compensation, trust vs. belief, and all that’s in between. By the end of the workshop, he had some really profound moments of opening up. We challenged his beliefs in trust being unnecessary and that we were only there for money. We challenged him to consider new ways of thinking. I think we planted some seeds.”
  • “Some of our shyest students did an incredible scene in the style of opera during a ‘genre scenes’ game. It was amazing to see them open up through music. We are excited by how working through genre elicits a deep play in our students that takes them out of their nerves. We discussed having a genre-bending play which students were excited for.”
  • “A fourth-year student came up to me before we started and told me how excited she was to see so many new students coming into the program. She’s been involved every semester since her freshman year and was genuinely pumped to have half new students in the room.”


With the first two workshops of the semester underway, we look ahead to some exciting opportunities and events this March for all Opening Act actors through our college and career readiness program, Act 2!

Act 2 Saturday: On Campus with Opening Act

The first Act 2 Saturday of the Spring is “On Campus with Opening Act”, happening simultaneously at two different locations (in Brooklyn and the Bronx) from 10AM – 1PM on March 16th. Students will have an opportunity to hear from alumni of Opening Act who are now successfully navigating the college landscape, sharing their experiences, advice, and tips for academic success for college-bound students! In breakout sessions, students will have conversations with our alumni about their college experience, how they balance their social and/or artistic life with being a college student and tour a local college campus in a fun and inventive way.

Bronx Location: Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Blvd W, Bronx, NY
Brooklyn Location: Brooklyn College, 2900 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Act 2 Saturday: Beyond the Stage & Broadway’s, To Kill a Mockingbird

On Saturday, March 30th, Opening Act actors will have the opportunity to attend the Broadway premiere of Aaron Sorkin’s new play, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and to meet Broadway company and crew members in an exclusive look at career paths in the performing arts “Beyond the Stage”.

Spotlight: SLC Actor, Kalissa

SLC Actor, Kalissa, performs with SLC at the #POWEROF10 Kickoff event at HBO

Opening Act’s Student Leadership Company (SLC) is comprised of students from each of our program sites who have demonstrated leadership and a commitment to Opening Act. Students meet monthly throughout the year to deepen their leadership training and devise original theatrical pieces they perform in the community (read more about SLC on our website).
Today we’re spotlighting SLC Actor, Kalissa, who sat down with Dianna Garten, Opening Act Teaching Artist at the Christopher Columbus Campus and Director of SLC, to speak to her about her experience!

K: My name is Kalissa and I attend Clara Barton High School.
And you’re also a part of…
Great! So, Kalissa, what would you say has been some of your favorite parts of being in the SLC program?
I feel like being a part of SLC, it’s not only an honor but it’s pretty cool because you get to take the things you learn as a leader and take it back into your home school and show them – not control them, but like, guide them in a way – so everybody there can also be a leader themselves in their own way. And on top of that, being in SLC has also provided us opportunities to represent Opening Act, and I think that’s really cool!
What made you want to join SLC?
What made me want to join? Oh, honestly the first time I heard about SLC it was just like, okay, there’s this group of kids and they’re meeting up in Manhattan. But then, when I realized I get to meet people who are not going to the same school as me or come from different boroughs, I actually get to venture out and learn how to move and, I don’t know how to put this, how to travel around Manhattan, because I’ve never like gone to Manhattan by myself before this. So now it’s like I have this new sense of direction and I have all these new friends.
So you got the benefit of not just making new friends, but also getting to explore new parts of the city, that’s really cool!
So this is your second year in SLC, yes? Thinking about those two years, or year and a half so far, what has been some of the coolest or most interesting things you’ve learned while participating in the SLC program?
Oh my goodness – I honestly don’t know how to put that! Because I’ve learned so many things and I’ve been able to walk away with so many opportunities and experiences, I can’t just pick one! But I think one cool thing that I’ve gotten to experience, was the fact that we performed at HBO and then we also performed at New World Stages, and we got the opportunity to talk to adults and they treated us as if we were also adults, and had real conversations with us. So it’s helped me with like, knowing how to communicate with people and network and reach out.
That’s really cool! What are you looking forward to in the Spring semester for SLC?
Oh, I’m looking forward to YESfest! Yeah, that’s the best part! Because it’s after all this hard work that you’ve been putting into creating a show and you now get to perform and other people get to see what you’ve been doing and what you’ve been spending your time on.
Awesome. Do you feel like there are any last things that you want to say or you really want people to know about SLC or Opening Act as a whole?
I think SLC and Opening Act are both programs that are different, they’re not just regular High School programs because you get to come back and have somewhere to come back to, even after you graduate. Even if you’re not in the program any longer, but you’re still in High School, you still have this group of people who care for you deeply, and so I think that’s really nice.
That’s great, thanks so much Kalissa.
Thank you!

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