Thanks to your support, we've been able to raise over
$150,000 (100% of our goal) through our 15 Years, 15 Voices campaign!
Together we are providing youth with a voice and creative outlet.
Please join US
in inspiring lives through theatre.
year The Unusual Suspects (US) celebrates its birthday by
spotlighting 15 voices from the last 15 years. These voices represent
the community of youth, artists, staff, volunteers, funders and
partners that have been such an important of our history. Keep your
eyes open for the next 15 Years, 15 Voices and make the next 15 years
as transformative as the last by helping us reach our goal of raising
$150,000 the next 15 months!
Passionate and Dedicated Teaching Artist
I first heard of The Unusual
Suspects after I graduated from college and was working part-time at
Cornerstone Theater Company. The chair of the board of directors at
Cornerstone, Vanessa Livingston, knew that I was looking for
additional part-time work. Luckily for me, Vanessa had already been
contacted by the founder of The Unusual Suspects about being a part of
US - I got in touch with Laura Leigh and totally lucked out, because
she was looking for a part-time assistant!
Since then, I have worked with The Unusual Suspects in just about
every capacity possible. I started out literally working in Laura
Leigh's closet as her very first assistant. A few years later, I
worked as a prop master at the Star View site. From there, I continued
down the path of Teaching Artist. Since then, I have worked at Camp G,
Star View, and Vista. Now I am primarily a Teaching Artist, but I have
also continued to help out in the office from time to time.
I am a HUGE advocate for arts education for various reasons. Research
has proven that involvement in the arts improves test scores, teaches
empathy, increases problem solving and critical thinking skills, as
well as fosters a sense of pride in participants. We work with youth
populations in Los Angeles that are often written off by the rest of
society. By giving these youth a voice, teaching them skills and
increasing their sense of worth, we are making strides in reducing
crime (especially gang-related crime), increasing acceptance of people
and cultures among our youth, and, in some cases, providing an
emotional or physical outlet for youth who might otherwise turn to
I am a firm believer that The Unusual Suspects' programming helps
prevent youth gang involvement. Sure, it's not a foolproof system.
Sure, not every participant goes off to change his or her life
drastically. However, I believe that if every participant had a safe
environment to go back to after finishing a US program, or if every
participant could be guaranteed a job or an education later in life,
there would be a 100% success rate. US's program encourages youth
steer away from a typical gang mentality by teaching them to see how
their actions affect others, to rely on themselves as much as they
rely on others, and to make positive and creative choices.
This past July, I had the privilege of going with the US staff to an
event sponsored by New Roads/New Visions, one of our partners at Camp
David Gonzalez. The event focused on the reentry process and how
difficult it is for many of our youth who were incarcerated to get
back out into the world and thrive and make positive choices for
themselves. There I ran into two US alumni that I had worked with at
'Camp G'. It was the first time I had seen either of them outside of
camp walls and I almost exploded with joy. I could see the freedom and
future in their eyes. Both young men had good news - they were both
off to college that fall and doing well "on the outs." They were all
smiles when they shared their successes. It was a magical moment for
Quite simply, through working with The Unusual Suspects, I have become
a better person. I have become calmer, more accepting, more
understanding of others and even more of an advocate for the arts in
education. It has cemented in my mind, my belief that everyone is
capable of change and everyone is capable of accomplishing beautiful
things in his or her life.
Maria Pasquarelli is a graduate of the USC School of Theatre and a
native of Pittsburgh, PA, where she began acting and dancing at a
young age. Los Angeles theater credits include Ampelisca in The Rope,
Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, Dixon in Soldiers Don't Cry, and
Foible in The Way of the World. She has also performed in Germany with
ICAP in Night Breath at the PlayOff 2006 international theatre