June 2020

LOOKING BACK

We are so proud of the young artists of Opening Act for showing up, week after week, ready and willing to connect, collaborate, and create with their ensembles and Teaching Artists! We look back on an incredibly impactful semester and a fantastic Digital YESfest with an enormous amount of gratitude for the entire Opening Act community.

Digital YESfest

Top left corner, Poorna Jagannathan ; Top right corner, Bronx Latin / College and Career Prep Ensemble ; Bottom left corner, D79 TAs, DOE Teachers and ensemble members; Bottom right corner, Walton Ensemble

On Friday, May 15th, Opening Act actors, Teaching Artists, staff and special surprise celebrity guest, Poorna Jagannathan, came together for our first ever, digital YESfest! With over 1,000 audience views tuning in through Facebook Live, friends of Opening Act from all over the country lit up the comment section with praise and applause for each ensemble’s brave and bold performance. From the Bushwick ensembles’ story of new found friendship and understanding, to Walton ensembles’ dramatic telling of a Zoom “virus” that threatened to cancel YESfest, these young actors led with brilliance, creativity, and thoughtfulness. We continue to thank Opening Act students for sharing their talent, commitment and passion with each other and with the entire Opening Act community. 

Watch the recorded YESfest performance on our Facebook page, HERE!

Alumni Digital Master Classes

From Left to Right – Josh Dawson, Jess Carson, Geri-Nikole Love, and Vishaal Reddy

Our Alumni Digital Master Class series has continued with guest artists such as Josh Dawson, Jess Carson, Geri-Nikole Love and Vishaal Reddy, leading this group of emerging creatives through advanced theater skill-building and exploration. Alumni have studied “Voice Body and Breath”, investigated the art of screenwriting, shared tools for producing their own work, and more!

Everyday Celebrations & Accomplishments

As we close out the Spring 2020 semester, ensembles have met for their final workshops to reflect on this whirlwind of a semester, and “throw some shine” on their fellow actors and Teaching Artists. With so many shared moments of gratitude and togetherness, final workshops were full of tears, applause and laughter.

  • “They all have so much love for each other, and how much the word ‘love’ and ‘grateful’ were used in Reflections for the end of the year was so powerful…”
  • “One of the students shared that she hadn’t come at first (online) because she thought it would be boring, but then she actually really liked it and thought it was fun. When we told her it was our last class, she got really sad and asked if there was a way we could keep going.”
  • “One student started crying when we asked him about what he thought about his experience with Opening Act this year. He wanted to express how meaningful it was for him to be a part of our ensemble.”
  • “They are very proud of themselves and were impressed with YesFest. We finally got everyone on the call, reflected, and came up with the great idea of having a compliment battle which was followed by a student not knowing how to feel…so he sang us a song (‘Chosen Family’…look it up…he sang the WHOLE song)…everyone was feeling their feelings and we totally cried. And we thanked each other and said see you soon. Everyone’s 1-10 check in ranged from 25-infinity. I’m so very proud of our little family that continues to Yes and, show up, and listen. They are incredible.”

LOOKING AHEAD

As we look ahead to the Summer months, Opening Act is excited to continue to offer free online summer programming for Alumni, after school and District 79 students across New York City. We will also be hosting a two-week digital Summer Arts & Leadership Conservatory that will engage 12 Opening Act students in workshops to develop skills as culturally responsive artists. 

Congratulations Graduating Seniors

Every year, we are eager to celebrate the accomplishments of graduating seniors and students who have passed their HSE/TASC exams as they transition out of high school and into the Opening Act Alumni Network! This year, we’re especially proud of these resilient young people and their perseverance through these challenging times. Recent grads will be receiving an email invitation to our upcoming (virtual) graduation party to celebrate Opening Act seniors and officially welcome them to the Alumni Network!

Summer Opportunities

This year, we will continue to host our annual FREE summer theater intensive, the Summer Arts & Leadership Conservatory. This year, the conservatory will be held online where students will take classes in auditioning for the stage and camera, facilitated by artistic professionals! During the summer, participating students will work on monologues and scripted audition material, all while receiving a paid stipend provided upon completion. All current Opening Act students are eligible to apply and the program will run from July 6th – July 17th, Monday – Friday. In addition to our Summer Arts & Leadership Conservatory, we will be continuing to host weekly District 79 digital workshops and our weekly digital Alumni Digital Master Class series.

Black Lives Matter

On Tuesday, June 2nd, Opening Act closed their virtual offices in remembrance of the many black lives that have been taken due to police brutality and racism. We are sharing this message from our Executive Director, Zareta Ricks, in action and solidarity with the ongoing struggle and fight against systemic and racialized violence…

“Today, Opening Act boldly confronts social and racial injustice. We address the heartache and pain of our black and brown communities, and we show them that BLACK LIVES ALWAYS MATTERED. The young people that participate in our programs are mirror images of the lives that have been violently taken, yet, they are the brightest hope for our future. 

Today, in solidarity of #BlackoutTuesday, we pause so our black and brown young people can know that we hear them, we see them, most importantly, we value THEMtheir lives, the color of their skin, and the brilliance of their minds.

Today, we close to recalibrate and prepare for a better tomorrow. And we will not dismiss, we will not be silent, nor will we rest until we have elevated silenced voices, provided platforms, and done our due diligence to help disrupt and dismantle an unjust system.The truth is, our students have been speaking for many years. Watch this powerful monologue from YESfest 2015 by the Clara Barton ensemble for just one of many examples. This painful moment we are living in is an opportunity to recommit hope to action.”

Opening Act community members gathered on Thursday, June 4th for “Centering Black Voices: An Opening Act Community Forum”, an hour of community solidarity, facilitated by black-identifying Opening Act Teaching Artists. This forum provided a dedicated digital space for alumni to share experiences, lift one another up, and acknowledge the important work that has been done historically, and that will continue to be done through this present moment and beyond. From this Community Forum, the Alumni community has decided to move forward with a series of Community Forums to continue to create space to collectively process, reflect, and take action.

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