Atlantic has been my artistic home since 2001. I started out as an acting student in the NYU program at Atlantic before moving on to directing and choreographing shows for the Atlantic Acting School. Eventually, I found myself on the team as the school’s artistic director.
The Atlantic community is my artistic family.
And for this reason, among many others, I feel beyond privileged now, as Artistic Director of Atlantic for Kids, to play a role in presenting our two annual Atlantic for Kids (AFK) Family Shows. – professional plays and musicals created for young audiences and their families – to our stages. Our AFK productions, which we have offered since 2000, are open to the general public on weekend mornings and weekday performances are open to school groups through a matinee program designed to provide affordable, age-appropriate theater New York students.
In more than two decades of production, we’ve discovered that stories grounded in truthfulness and emotional authenticity are the best way to engage audiences of all ages.
The work we produce aims to speak to the height of children’s intelligence and curiosity, the depth of their soul and the extent of their wildness and creativity. We seek to create a space that allows for all experiences, feelings and thoughts; a place where children can give their all to the theatre.
Atlantic’s mission, to enable simple and honest storytelling that promotes greater understanding of our shared world and can inspire us to reflect on our role in society, is perhaps most meaningful when we think in terms of the young community. that we serve. Stories help children make sense of the world around them, face big questions, and ultimately find their bearings. Through the testimony of embodied stories, children discover who they want to be and who they can become. The power of theater cannot be overstated when it comes to shaping the lives of children. And with that power comes responsibility.
It is crucial for us to produce theater where children see characters who look like them, speak like them and share their customs and traditions; share diverse stories that address the social, political and environmental issues of our time. As a company operating in New York, one of the most diverse cities in the world, we owe it to the kids who come to our shows.
We are always looking to collaborate with artists who share our vision and our values. Jeanna Phillips and nicHi douglas, the creators of The Last Groveare two artists who I believe share these beliefs about the nature of art and education.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we took a break from producing AFK shows and focused our energy on building a more formalized New Theater for Young Audiences (TYA) development program that included piloting the AFK residence. This residency is an artist-centric program that aims to support an early-stage idea for an original TYA project. When identifying artists to take part in this residency, I immediately thought of Jeanna and nicHi. When they described The Last Grovemy excitement only grew, knowing that such a large and complicated subject as climate change would be in the hands of writers who would bring both humor and sophistication to the article.
The Last Grove is an interactive, outdoor TYA piece about climate justice, identity, and how we name the world around us.
In the words of the writers, “Five hundred years from now, trees have taken the form of humans in order to protect themselves from human-caused climatic damage. But humans may not outlive all other species after all.” , and the trees are now on a mission to return to their original shape. Will the trees find a way back into the grove, or will human pride run out of clock?” The Last Grove is such an exciting prospect for the AFK. Although we haven’t produced a truly immersive piece, we are always looking to find ways to “cast” the audience and ensure they actively participate in the storytelling.
After a year of Zoom classrooms and screen overload, we can’t wait to support a story that encourages kids to connect with themselves, each other, and nature.
I have been impressed with some of the discoveries Jeanna and nicHi have made throughout their time at the AFK Residence. As Jeanna beautifully puts it, “The piece’s identity runs deep. When I first designed it, I was traveling across the country, and found myself obsessed with trying of naming the trees and plants that I saw in the west, as well as the names of the indigenous peoples who managed the land. And so, a crucial seed of this piece is the question, ‘What do we do when we name something ?’ We name things to make them “real”, to acknowledge their value, to acknowledge their very existence. Naming is a method of activation and agitation: the ritual utterance of names is a fundamental practice in the racial justice movement Naming oneself can also be part of “coming out” of oneself – from declaring one’s sexual identity to stating one’s pronouns to changing one’s name to resonate with one’s gender identity.
“We realized during our development period that we cannot talk about climate without talking about community. The climate justice movement, whose values run through the article, posits that empowering communities to bring positive change is the first step to a just transition to a regenerative rather than an extractive economy.And the more we learn about the science of trees, the more we have learned that everything they do, they do in community, connected by root systems deep and invisible underground.
“The piece celebrates the power of acting in community, but it also aims to unravel what it means to find yourself at a breaking point with your community due to changes in how you call yourself.”
In June, AFK will happily partner with The Future Perfect Project to bring The Last Grove to the next phase of development through a 10-day workshop that engages a small group of New York-based LGBTQIA+ youth and allies in the design of this site-specific event rooted in environmental justice, identity and justice. youth empowerment. The workshop will conclude with an ongoing sharing with a live audience at a local New York City park.
Jeanna explains, “One of our characters, Ash, is a tree who decides he wants to stay in human form. Another, Willow, is a human who wants to become a tree. thought they were, who they are now, and how their truths align with their community’s expectations of each of them. Part of the reason I’m so excited about working with a young LGBTQIA+ population is because of the opportunity it offers to problematize these stories. It’s possible that Ash and Willow’s character arcs are clear metaphors for what it means to be trans and queer. But it’s likely to be more complicated than that. A collaboration with youth, AFK and Future Perfect will be our opportunity to explore this complexity.
If you are an LGBTQIA+ author/performer between the ages of 16 and 21 and would like to participate in this workshop, we invite you to apply!
You can find more details on how to do this below. We accept submissions on an ongoing basis and would love to hear from you!
The Last Grove
Atlantic For Kids and the Future Perfect Project
June 15 – 25, 2022
16 to 21 years old
at the Atlantic Acting School in New York
The Last Grove is an interactive outdoor theater play for young audiences about climate justice, identity and how we name the world around us. Five hundred years from now, trees took on the form of humans to protect themselves from human-caused climate damage. But humans may not outlive all other species after all, and trees are now on a mission to return to their original form. Will the trees find a way back into the grove, or will human pride run out of clock?
Participants receive a stipend of $300.
Submissions accepted on a rolling basis until June 5, 2022.