Reimagine Teenagers as Artist Activists – Penumbra Theatre Summer Institute

Last weekend Richard and I were able to see the second year performance from the Penumbra Summer Institute.  I love living so close to Penumbra, we have seen great shows there.

Here’s how the program is described on Penumbra’s page:

Summer Institute is a three year leadership development program that trains teenagers to use  their passion for the arts to promote social justice and equity. Across the Twin Cities, our students are positively impacting their communities by standing up, speaking out, and moving those who listen with the power of performance.

The performances are powerful, the show is made up of mostly monologues and movement but the students work together in an ensemble.  They take on issues that are important to them.  After this performance, the second year show, students took questions from the audience and were held accountable for the work that they put forward.

I had coffee with one of the Artist Activist Youth a few mornings after the performance.  I asked her what makes the Summer Institute so special.  Here’s a summary of what she said.

1- It’s safe.  You can be who you are and that’s ok.  It’s safe to be vulnerable together.

2- At the same time, you can’t stay safe.  The teachers really get in our face and make us get real, you have to dig down deep into yourself and share parts of yourself that you don’t want other people to see.

3- We get treated like people and not just kids.  The teachers know that we will make a difference.

4- We learn how to be professional, to smile and greet people even when we don’t feel like being smiley and professional.  We learn how to treat people in a way that they will listen to us or hire us or at least just take us seriously.

Wow!  Isn’t that so much of what we want for our kids?  I want that to be what kids say about church, I’m not sure how we get there, but my prayer is that church will look more like that in the coming year.  Any ideas on how to make it happen?