From student to mentor, and beyond!

Recently we had the honor of interviewing Unusual Suspects alumni, Destiny Cable. We got to know Destiny while she was a student in our Playwriting and Performance programs at Vaughn Middle School from 2012-2014. This summer we were excited to learn that not only is she continuing to pursue her theatre studies, but she wanted to support current Unusual Suspects students as an Alumni Volunteer Mentor. We thought it was a great time to catch up with Destiny and are so inspired by her commitment to finding opportunities for creative growth while giving back to the community!

The Unusual Suspects (US): How did you first get involved with The Unusual Suspects?

Destiny Cable (DC): I was in 7th grade at Vaughn Middle School, and at the time, there was nothing at my school that related to theatre, which was what I was interested in. One day I heard on the intercom that there would be a theatre company coming to do workshops, and I decided, I’m going to jump on this opportunity. I experienced it, and I really liked it, so I came back in 8th grade.

US: What are your best memories from US?

DC: It was all so memorable. In general, the program as a whole was super useful and inspiring, and the experience has had an impact on me. The best part was knowing that all of the teaching artists (TAs) were there for you and that there were no bad ideasthe TAs were supportive of all ideas. I had never experienced that in a school environment. Usually it’s “one way” or you’re wrong. I got really comfortable and secure in what I believe. That helped me grow and The Unusual Suspects helped give other people a space to have their ideas heard. I also remember so many people who were shy, and after doing The Unusual Suspects they are so much more open.

US: This past summer you took your theatrical training to a new level by participating in the Musical Theatre Summer Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). What made you decide to participate in this experience?

DC: I wanted to do something for myself, and if I want to be a performer, I can’t complain about how my school doesn’t have what I want. I had applied to two programs in New York, but I either didn’t get in or wasn’t able to get the money to cover the cost of participating. I was feeling hopeless, but my teacher told me about the UCLA summer program. I decided that one last try wouldn’t hurt, so I sent in my application and when I got the email that read “you’re now enrolled!” I was so happy and excited.

US: What was the summer like at UCLA?

DC:  We put together a final showcase in 3 weeks. It was fun and it was intense, but it was the most exhilarating time I’ve ever had. After the experience was over, I felt super proud to have been there with all those talented people and hardworking individuals. Out of everyone who applied, I got in, and it made me see myself differently. Sometimes I base my success off of what other people have going on. After the show it made me see that I can’t look at other people’s lives and get mad at myself. Everyone has a way of approaching things that works for them. It might have taken me a while to work hard to do something for myself, but regardless I still did it.

US: This past fall we had the privilege of having you with our Vaughn Middle School program as an Alumni Mentor. We are looking forward to having you back this spring, too! What is it like being a mentor?

DC: Being a mentor is fun and makes me feel nostalgic. It feels good to know that I’m in a position where I can give kids the support that I got when I was in middle school. I feel like I’m there to learn just as much as they are and participate with them. It’s a collaborative environment.

US: What is something you feel like you’ve learned through the mentorship process?

DC: I’ve learned that some of the youth that I’m working with may have difficulty processing information or rules and directions. If we tell them we’re going to start writing ideas, they may have a hard time processing it and they may be still stuck on what we were doing before. I’m not a very patient person, but by becoming a mentor my patience has grown tremendously. Being one of the youngest mentors, I’m sort of the middle ground between the younger students and the teaching artists so I can serve as a good example. Despite their difficulties learning or taking direction, every single one of the kids give amazing ideas and contribute in a way that’s so profound and appreciated.

US: What is something you’ve brought to the workshop space that is unique because you’re an alumna of the program?

DC: Because I’ve been in US I can bring an understanding of being in the program as a middle school student. I remember that, as a student, there were things that would happen at school and at home that would make me check in at a low number, but by the end of the workshop I would feel better and be able to check out on a higher number. [**note: at the beginning and end of every US workshop, students share how they are feeling by checking-in on a scale from 1-10**]  Whenever students checked in at a low number, I would try to be there for them and make sure that each day we have a workshop is a day that will boost their mood and they’ll leave on a high note.

US: How has being a part of US changed since becoming a mentor?

DC: It’s changed in the sense that now I see that The Unusual Suspects is not just about working with kids and putting on a show. It’s about getting to know kids, knowing how they work, and building bonds that help show them that it’s ok to think outside the box and be yourself. You provide that foundation for youth. As a member I didn’t necessarily see that, but as a mentor now I see it and appreciate it so much.

US: You’re a high school senior this year: what are you up to these days?

DC: This fall I was applying for scholarships and college. In the future, I want to start a club or program that brings improv and theatre and performance to kids who aren’t as privileged. I want to work in homeless shelters and do for others what you guys did for me. We don’t realize how much power we actually have. We need to grab ahold of it and use it for the greater good. Maybe there is something we didn’t get to have, but we can use what we have now to give it to others.

US: Where do you see yourself next year?

DC: Whatever will be will be –“que será será.” I’m thinking about getting a Liberal Arts college experience; If I could be anywhere I would like to be at Howard University. After graduating maybe I’d come back to California and apply to American Conservatory Theatre for an MFA.

US: Anything else you want to share?

DC: I am really grateful that The Unusual Suspects gave me this opportunity, and I look forward to venturing out into the world!

The TCAP Experience

Our Theatre and Culture Access Program (TCAP) connects those who might not otherwise have access to professional theatre, to some of the most impacting and enriching live performances Los Angeles has to offer. Each outing brings together an inter-generational mix of Unusual Suspects students & families to experience professional theatre together, often for the first time. In addition to the show, our staff leads workshops before and after the show to foster an active experience for all!

“I think the play was very beautiful. The costumes and the set were interesting to look at. I’m very appreciative that the actors talked to our kids afterwards. They were so excited to ask questions.”

“I really enjoy coming to these shows because it’s bonding time with my daughter. Like back in the old days of Our Town, people had time to bond. But now with technology, it’s harder to find time to spend with my daughter. I get to do that when I come to see shows with you guys! Thank you!”

“I think it was a good event. Look at my daughters’ faces. They loved it, and I would do anything to see them that happy.”

“This was my first time seeing a show. It was different than I expected. I am glad that my kids get to go to the theatre when they are young. It is a good experience for them. I am looking forward to the next time you offer a performance field trip to our family.”

—Personal reflections from our Fall 2017 TCAP season

Photo from TCAP field trip to The Madwoman of Chaillot at A Noise Within (October 2017)

2017 Highlights

These are just a few of our best memories of 2017. We could go on and on, thinking of the special moments we shared together last year. Thank you to everyone who made 2017 a year to remember. Follow US on Instagram at @USTheatreCo for more exciting photo updates all year long.

Meet Kristy, Our Alumni Intern!

unnamedIn 2011, Kristy joined our program as a freshman at San Fernando High School. Now a proud high school graduate, she has joined the US team as a paid intern for our Neighborhood Voices program!

“I gained so much confidence in The Unusual Suspects after school program. Now, as an intern, it’s a whole different ball game. I’m constantly being looked at as a role model by the participants and it’s an empowering feeling. I am growing more as a leader and being able to take on more responsibilities. I’m hoping this internship with The Unusual Suspects opens doors for me with future employers.”

Keep Going – An Original Poem

Keep Going is an original poem written by US alumna Tameka Carter

The storms of life will come. The winds and the waves will take you and spin you out of control. The rain will fall hard on you. Every drop will feel like rocks being thrown at you and there is no relief.
But no matter what, keep going.

It’s dark and cold. Every step you take is as scary as the next one because you can’t see. Vision is blurry; there’s no light to make your path clear. In fact, it gets darker and darker with each ounce of courage to take another step, but please keep going.

You scream out but can anyone hear you? Can anyone see the pain, the agony, the turmoil you are in? The louder you cry out the fainter your voice becomes. Why am I here? Why do I exist? Is there a plan for my life? The questions continue to come, but there is no answer.
You must keep going.

You are playing tug of war with a giant, and you always lose. With each muster of strength and each bead of sweat that falls from your brow the rope is slowly slipping from your hands.
You fall on the ground in defeat each and every time.
Nevertheless, don’t give up, keep going.

“I know the plans I have for you” say’s the Lord.
A still small voice settles you and says, “trust me, I am with you.”

The raging waves settle into a calm body of water. The darkness that blinded you is now fading as you see a twinkle of light further down the road. The rain that poured heavily on you is gone and the sun begins to shine again. The giant that once bullied you runs in fear because it can’t stand in the face of your faith.  Keep speaking, keep sharing, keep believing
and keep loving because your voice is heard.

The path to destiny is a dangerous one; if you give up.

Greatness is inside of you. Joy lies ahead of you. Love will surround you.
Success will chase you down!


Tameka Carter



The Unusual Suspects Announces Leadership Transition

Los Angeles (October 15, 2015) – The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company, a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth in Los Angeles County announces David Kietzman will lead the organization on an interim basis. Long-time executive director Sally Fairman is stepping down to join her husband, who recently moved to Europe for business. Mr. Kietzman will work with Ms. Fairman until she leaves in November.

“We are pleased that David, who knows our organization well, has agreed to carry forward the momentum Sally and her team have built while we search for our next leader,” said Deborah Lintz, board chair for the organization. “Sally has put together a great framework to continue The Unusual Suspects’ significant contributions to our community.”

Mr. Kietzman has worked in partnership with The Unusual Suspects since 2007 as founding executive director of Valley nonprofit Youth Speak Collective (YSC). After 10 years leading and building YSC, Mr. Kietzman stepped down earlier this year to begin his own consulting business.

“I’ve worked closely with The Unusual Suspects for the past decade and have seen close up how they help change the lives of the young people and the families they serve. I’m looking forward to working hand-in-hand with their dedicated staff and board to continue meeting and even exceeding their plans for growth,” said Mr. Kietzman.

The Unusual Suspects provides its intensive arts programming in multiple school, probation and community settings to over 600 youth each year and reaches nearly 10,000 community members through its unique brand of theatre ensemble.

“It has been my absolute pleasure and privilege to serve the mission of this organization. Our youth, volunteer mentors, staff and board members have played a vital role in developing our work; and today, the demand for our program continues to grow”, said Ms. Fairman, who has served as executive director since 2005.

The Dwight Stuart Youth Fund is one of many funders that have supported The Unusual Suspects because of its arts focus and collaborative approach to strengthening youth and their communities.

“The Unusual Suspects has consistently delivered quality programs within a larger social justice context. Each year, the organization has been able to withstand economic volatility to meet the increased demand for its program. We are a leader in support of their three-year expansion plan and will continue to be invested in its success.” – Wendy Chang, Director, Dwight Stuart Youth Fund.

Founded by Laura Leigh Hughes in 1993, The Unusual Suspects has received numerous awards, including The National Juvenile Justice Award (2000), The National Youth Arts and Humanities Award (2007), and he Otto Rene Castillo Award for Political Theatre (2013).

For more information about the organization, visit The Unusual Suspects.