2018 Founders Project Development-FACE TO FACE Work-in-progress reports from Rising Youth Theatre of Phoenix, AZ

Announcing CTFA’s 2018 Founders Project Fulfillment Grant: FACE TO FACE/Rising Youth Theatre
CTFA is proud to announce the first biennial Founders Fund Project Fulfillment Grant which is being awarded to Rising Youth Theatre in Phoenix, AZ. The Founders Fund is the general fund of the Children's Theatre Foundation of America which supports Founders Fund Grants for Projects of Excellence and National Significance that are unique and new to the field of theatre for young audiences. This RFP issued a challenge to theatres to show leadership in dismantling institutional and structural racism. Through offering this RFP to non-profit theatres, CTFA is supporting a ground-breaking project that demonstrates diversity, racial equity and inclusion and promotes the involvement of communities that have been historically disadvantaged and socially and politically excluded based on race.
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FACE TO FACE-Workshops begin January 2019
Performances in May 2020

Face to Face: is a youth led theatre and dialogue project that brings adults and youth of a wide range of backgrounds together to explore the questions - What happens at the intersections of race, class, and age? And how can young people use an artistic process to instigate and deepen these conversations within communities? How have the histories of peoples in the United States been shaped by the intersection of race and class in our country? What power structures reinforce racist systems that impact how young people experience the intersection of race and class? These questions will drive an inclusive, intensive process of artmaking, performance, and critical dialogue in our community.

To develop this project, Rising Youth Theatre will convene an intergenerational group of artists that will lead a series of community dialogues through affinity groups. These conversations will form a body of research that will become a play, performed for public audiences in Phoenix in spring of 2020. In this project, youth expertise and leadership are centered at all levels. Adults will partner with young people to activate and engage their ideas and youth and adults will work together in a model of shared learning and equal partnership.

Following the initial production, Rising Youth Theatre and the core ensemble on this project will work to disseminate, both the production and dialogue elements. Ultimately the company will develop a toolkit and training curriculum facilitated by Rising Youth Theatre, which will be shared with other arts and community organizations around the country for producing Face to Face in their own communities.
(Reporting 9-7-2018)

Collaborators: The project leaders of Face to Face include Rising Youth Theatre apprentice artists Thameenah Muhammad (age 17) and Paula Alvarado Ortega (age 18); co-founding Artistic Director Xanthia Walker; Co-founding Artistic Director Sarah Sullivan; General Manager Julio-César Sauceda; and long time Rising Youth Theatre collaborator and Artistic Director of Teatro Bravo Ricky Araiza.
(Reporting 9-20-2018)
SEPTEMBER 2020 - Interim Update
Rising Youth Theatre received funding from the Childrens Theatre Foundation of America for its project, ​Face to Face, ​a theatre and dialogue project at the intersection of race, class, and age. The following is a programmatic update for the grant term between March and August 2020. This report reflects significant changes to the project related to COVID-19 and its impact.

Programmatic Updates
The social distancing measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 came just as we were about to start the final, and most public phase of our production of
Face to Face . This meant that we were not able to proceed in the way that we originally envisioned, with rehearsals for the production beginning on April 20 and a public performance June 5 - 14, 2020.

However, we were able pivot both quickly and responsively to our new circumstances, and programmatic activity did not stop during this time. We made the decision as an ensemble to postpone the production phase for the time being, but to continue our research, learning, and creating work together using virtual tools. Throughout April, May and June, we met virtually twice a week to continue work on our script and toolkit. And as the world shifted, our process did too. We talked about COVID-19, asking how the experience of the virus, the closures, and the support connected to our conversations about race, class, and age. We talked about the deaths of George Floyd, Dion Johnson, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Aubrey. We talked about protests, violence, and a world without police. This time was incredibly valuable to us as a team, even though we weren’t in the rehearsal and production experience we expected. It was also meaningful to us that we were able to honor everyone’s contracts and pay them for their time and work, especially during this time.

This video (created for the workshop we describe below) will give some insight into our process during this time. Please feel free to share widely
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxv5tY91FNE&t=301s

In August 2020, we had the opportunity to do a virtual keynote for the American Alliance of Theatre and Education’s national conference. We were disappointed of course, that we were not performing our production as we originally imagined. But we were incredibly proud of the workshop we developed and the responses we got from participants.

Next Steps
We are now in the process of exploring what a full production will look like for ​Face to Face. W​e are currently planning a fall 2020 rehearsal process that includes a mix of virtual rehearsals and outdoor, masked, in-person rehearsals. We are exploring a number of ideas for the performance, which will take place in December 2020, and working to fundraise additional resources to support the project.

-Rising Youth Theatre

Rising Youth Theatre works in collaboration with young people and professional artists to create socially relevant original plays with youth voices at the center. In the company’s model, plays are created in partnership with the community, through a multi-generational collaborative process where artists of all ages work in a shred learning, creative youth development model. The company works to perform in non-traditional theatre spaces, in which all audiences will feel invited to engage with the art and accompanying dialogue. Alongside artmaking, the Rising Youth Theatre ensemble leads workshops and residencies in schools and community spaces and actively participates in community events, working to ensure that youth voices are represented in a wide variety of spaces in Arizona. Visit www.RisingYouthTheatre.org to learn more.