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The Spot Young Company

The Spot

The Spot Young Company production of ONCE was a month-long tuition-free program offered entirely at our location at 220 Lewis St. in Ketchum. The 7th such production, our goal was to provide the high-school aged students from the Wood River Valley to an opportunity to perform in a professional theatrical environment, while also affirming their unique identities as humans and performers. In all, 22 performers participated, along with three aspiring technicians – all under 18 years old. We selected this particular piece because it allowed the performers to not only act, sing and dance, but also play an instrument in the show.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

The essential question of this particular project came to be: What can a performer achieve without limitations?

When we selected ONCE, we knew the piece would be a challenge because one of the main features of the show is the idea that the actors create the music themselves. With actors of varying degrees of ability in this regard, we did not know how far we could push them in a month. Often as performers, we play within the limits of what we know we can do, but throughout this process, we saw several instances of our actors learning a new skill before our very eyes. Rapidly, our performers picked up skills in piano, guitar, bass and percussion that they may not have known were even possible. Our Young Company program has always sought to stretch the limits, but this production took that goal to a new level.

Practice and performance are two entirely different things, and to watch the youth in this production proficiently accompany their own work at the level they did was truly inspiring and beyond what we thought possible. Each show we do within the four years they are able to participate is meant to instill confidence and gain skill(s) for the next production, or in the case of seniors, better prepare them for college.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

Creation is a main part of what we do. Many students responded with excitement and joy, rather than fear, to the challenges of creating this piece without some of the requisite experience and that translated to presentation that allowed them to celebrate the success of a new skill without trying to hide flaws.

Impact

To be honest, the most compelling lesson for The Spot was how our Young Company related with one another. The ideas around identity are rapidly changing, and while we were conscious of the environment needed to create a safe-space, the youth in this project taught us more about acceptance than we had ever known before. We cast several roles in non-binary and non-rigid ways, and we weren’t aware of the importance of that kind of of openness. In creating an environment where everyone is comfortable to be who they are, the work flourishes.

Reflection

In this project, the destination was clear; but, the process to getting there was somewhat nebulous. Often in theater, there can be a rush to put pieces together without considering the individual. We are also programmed to to highlight ones best features and diminish others. Moving forward, I would recommend to anyone working with youth to allow them to explore their abilities in an affirming environment that provides space to adapt.

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