Our cornerstone Youth Theatre Residency Program offers underserved and incarcerated youth experiential theatre-arts education and mentorship via two, back-to-back, 10-week after-school workshops. Led by professional teaching artists, youth in our workshops collaborate to create and perform an original play born out of their shared hopes and fears. Workshop curricula are certified under California state education standards for English Language Writing and Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA), and utilize theatrical story development, script writing, improvisation techniques, and onstage performance to help youth develop self-esteem, respect, and tolerance of others, as well as the communication, coping, and behavioral skills necessary to thrive.
“[Before,] I was really shy and quiet and I would just sit apart from everyone, but then I came here and started to make friends. This program has changed me a lot. I talk more; I’m myself more. I’m proud of that. I love this program.”
Our intergenerational Neighborhood Voices program is a 12-week intensive workshop that brings parents and adult community members together to create & perform their own modernized fable alongside their children and other youth from their community. The unique experience provides valuable mirroring & mentoring opportunities for the underserved youth who are the focus of our work.
“The Unusual Suspects hasn’t helped me only; it helps my family, and it helps my community as well. As a mother, I like my kids to be busy doing something good, instead of having them outside in the streets doing things that they’re not supposed to be doing. This is a wonderful program for me and my community.”
VAST helps reduce barriers to classroom participation with universal, non-verbal & visual stories. This growing program adapts our successful after-school curriculum to a residency of in-class workshops where US teaching artists work alongside the classroom teacher to help groups of students collaborate to create and perform short theatre pieces through improvisation, rewriting, editing, and rehearsing.
“The thing that I love most about this program — yes they develop public speaking skills, yes they have more confidence — is that it gives an outlet for children with challenging behavior. [One of the more challenging students] would just dive into the performances, and it helped me [as her teacher] create a different relationship with her, so on the days when we didn’t have VAST I could go back to that connection with her. It has allowed her to be able to stay in class and not be sent out and to participate more fully in her education with me.”
Our Theatre and Culture Access Program 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 past and present Unusual Suspects students and families to experience professional theatre together, often for the first time. In addition to the show, our staff leads workshops before and after the performance to foster an active experience for all!
“This is the first play that I have been to. It’s the second play for my son. It’s great because we get to be together.”
Our newly-refined VOICES FROM INSIDE PROGRAM is an outgrowth of our 20+ years of experience working with incarcerated and system-engaged youth and our ongoing collaboration with the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network, of which we are a founding member. Designed to augment L.A. County Probation’s innovative new “L.A. Model” for juvenile justice reform, this innovative program combines in-class and after-school theatre-arts education with trauma-informed healing practices to provide standards-based theatre-arts education and mentoring to the county’s most hardened minors.
“I’d never done anything like this before. I like that that you could see where I was coming from and that I could show people who I am. I’d never done that before.”
Parent PrACTica workshops, one-off sessions or short series, are designed to strengthen the connections between parents and their children through the fundamentals of theatre. Our teaching artists lead parents through fun and creative ensemble building games that are designed to teach emotional expression, non-verbal behaviors and gestures, listening skills, eye contact, conversation and social skills. Familial connections can mean the difference between a confident child and an insecure one and are a strong predictor of a child’s success in many areas of life. Parent PrACTica workshops creatively foster those connections through play.
A summer intensive, US’s Summer Alumni Program incorporates US’s unique, core theatre arts curriculum, providing opportunity youth (ages 16-26) with continued engagement as they transition to the next stage of their life, including mentorship as they prepare for careers, education and beyond. This program is critical in setting the stage for those who are typically disconnected from education and the workforce and lack the necessary support networks – social, financial, and familial – that allow them to participate in activities or opportunities that would enable them to succeed. Ultimately, our Alumni Program is a stepping stone for a fully realized, self-sustaining, Alumni-led theatre ensemble and youth leadership hub for opportunity youth to gain access to educational, career and other pathways.
We are proud to receive the support of these generous Founding Donors for our Alumni Program:
Nancy and Steve Carell
Stephen and Sherie Carroll
Ed and Dianne Coghlan
Deborah Lintz & Max Sank
David and Pamela Peterman