“It’s nice to be in such a supportive atmosphere where I don’t have to be afraid to say what I think or feel… to be somewhere where I can just be honest and be who I am.” —Samantha, a PMP participant (PMP Received the 2007 Coming Up Taller Award)
Click here to see PMP’s story and process!
In 2007 Barrington Stage Company’s Playwright Mentoring Project received the national Coming Up Taller Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. This is the nation’s highest honor for after school and out of school programs in the arts and humanities.
Watch the PMP Coming Up Taller Video.
PMP is an intensive, six-month, out-of-school activity that uses theatre as a catalyst to help at-risk youth learn valuable life skills that will aid them in developing positive self-images. Over the course of the program teens are enabled to create an original performance piece based on their own stories in a safe and confidential environment where they can express themselves, can develop conflict/resolution skills and together can create a supportive community.
PMP participants range in age from 13 to 19. Many live in foster homes, in single parent families or in families struggling to support themselves financially. These teens are frequently struggling with issues such as bullying, substance abuse, foster care, unconventional family structures, violence, pregnancy, sexuality, self-injury, eating disorders, date rape, racism, and acculturation, as well as many of the other challenges that youth face during the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Beginning in October, PMP groups meet once a week after school for a two hour session as the artistic team guides the participants through a series of trust exercises, improvisations, storytelling, and conflict resolution workshops. The sessions culminate in April with a performance piece conceived, written and performed by the participants at local high schools, community centers, and atBarrington Stage Company’s St. Germain Stage.
The Playwright Mentoring Project gives teenagers a safe place to talk about serious issues in their daily lives—issues at home, in school, at work, with friends—all of it kept in the strictest confidence. Through rigorous theatre instruction, participants learn the fundamentals of theatre games and improvisation from experienced mentors. Theatre is used as a means of self exploration and self expression. A typical Playwright Mentoring Project session includes:
- A check-in where each participant shares experiences from the past week
- Physical and vocal acting warm-ups
- Theatre games and trust exercises
- Improvisation of serious issues/discussion topics introduced by the participants
- Development of script with professional playwright
- Rehearsal of script created by students
Artistic Mentor—The project leader who guides the group through its emotional journey, steering the storytelling and improvisations towards a finished, performable product.
Peer Mentors—Two young adults slightly older than the participants who have experienced the same issues as the participants and have succeeded in finding positive solutions to those issues. Peer mentors share stories, participate in all activities, and perform with participants in the final production.
Professional Playwright—An advisor to the participants in the artistic process of developing a play, the playwright collaborates with the mentors and participants to bring the teen’s ideas together in dramatic form.
Mental Health Counselor—A professional therapist who occasionally assists in addressing the more serious and complex issues that come up in group discussion, acting as an on-hand resource to participants interested in accessing outside counseling.
PMP gives participants focus and discipline that is often missing in their day-to-day lives while teaching them to develop solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. Conflict resolution skills introduced and reinforced by the program empower participants to make positive long term life choices and to act as leaders among their peers.
For more information about the Playwright Mentoring Project contact Jamuna Sirker, Director of PMP, at 413-997-6117.
Our deepest appreciation to the following for major support of The Playwright Mentoring Project:
Boraski Family Children’s Fund to benefit BSC’s Educational Programming
Berkshire United Way, Bessie Pappas Charitable Foundation, Elayne Bernstein & Sol Schwartz, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, Leon Lowenstein Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Mentor Network Charitable Foundation, Title V. Granting Program—The United States Department of Justice, Sydelle & Lee Blatt, Peter Levin & Interact for Change, Claudia & Steven Perles, Jude Sabot, Alan Sagner & Bea Bloch, Ira & Sharon Siegel,
City of Pittsfield, Coolidge Hill Foundation, Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire, Pittsfield Cultural Council, Katherine Bierwas, Grace Brodsky, Kathleen & Neil Chrisman, James Emden & Barbara Cutler, A. King & Deborah Francis, Marita & David Glodt, Sherwood & Carol Guernsey, Joan & Jim Hunter, Julia Kaplan, Marilyn & William Kirby, Joseph Kopelowitz Revocable Trust, Jewish Community Foundation–Anonymous IX, Jeff & Amy Mann, Catherine & James Miller, Pittsfield Co-op Bank, Roberta Olsen, Mary Ann & Bruno Quinson, Shelia & Hal Richman, Kevin & Laurie Riley, Phyllis & Stuart Sandrew, Laurie & Martin V. Schwartz, Rosita Sarnoff & Beth Saprey, Albert & Marcia Schmier, Richard & Stephanie Solar, William & Rose Ann Sturgeon, Patrick & Debra Sullivan, John and Kathi Thonet, Ungar Foundation, Loet & Edith Velmans Ira & Shirley Yohalem, Robert & Karen Youdelman.
This project was supported by subgrant No. 2009-JP-FX -0039, 2010-JP-FX -0055 and 2011-JP-FX -0058 awarded by the state administering office for the Title V Community Prevention Grant Program. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the state or the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.