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Grads Build The Platform for At-Risk Youth

Grads Build The Platform for At-Risk Youth

: Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako (actress); courtesy of The Platform.

Grads Build The Platform for At-Risk Youth

: Juliana Meira do Valle (actress); courtesy of The Platform.

Grads Build The Platform for At-Risk Youth

: Sarah ER Grosman, Tim Smith Stewart, Carol Thompson, Samie Detzer (co-collaborators); courtesy of The Platform.

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Tonight at the Neptune Theatre, at-risk kids get their say at The Platform Playwright’s Festival, begun by Cornish grads.

Five years ago, a group of Cornish theater students decided to get involved in working with at-risk youth. They offered their time to the James W. Ray Orion Center, which for years has offered a place of refuge to homeless youth, but it took some time to learn how they could help. They discovered that youth living precariously in the community really, really wanted to talk about their lives: they wanted to write. With the help of Cornish, the group began “Orion Out Loud,” which is now called “The Platform Playwrights’ Festival. Tonight, July 23, at 7:30 pm, this year’s offerings can be seen at the Neptune Theatre.

The Platform Playwrights’ Festival is part of Nights at the Neptune, presented by the non-profit Seattle Theatre Group (STG) which runs the Neptune. Cornish grads and co-collaborators Tim Smith Stewart (TH ‘10), Carol Thompson (TH ‘10), and Samie Detzer (TH ‘10) are producing five world-premier plays written by homeless and at-risk youth for the festival.

Samie Detzer speaks for The Platform. “With five weeks of writing workshops, two weeks of rehearsal, twelve actors, two designers, countless re-writes, and five hundred seats to fill, we are ready to share with you their incredible stories,” she says. “These fearless and inspirational youth playwrights will change the way you think about theater, homelessness, and our community. Your presence is the last ingredient to make this evening an empowering event for us all.”

The work of the partners in The Platform began at Cornish. “It was an independent study,” says Detzer. “We had the impetus to start this kind of theater and research definitely began in the classroom. Auto Cours (project class) was a major contributor to that as well as the sophomore ensemble. Theater history got us to learn more about generative art and community-based theater art.” The theater department now offers as a regular part of its curriculum TH 278, Applied Theater, taught by Caroline Brown, which concentrates on work in the community. The College also offers Intro to Community Arts.

The classroom experiences gave them a taste of community work, but it wasn’t enough. “We’d gone through Auto Cours and we thought, ‘We want something more. We want to continue this kind of work … we want to go into a community … so OK, how are we going to do that?’”

“Every year as part of the project,” continues Detzer, “we’d go to the Orion Center and simply volunteer. … We offered our services and we just hung out. Generally speaking, all of the youth and the staff were very receptive. We went in thinking we would make food , you know, very service oriented. So we got there and we just hung out. Got to know the people.”

They soon discovered that what was needed was the skills they had learned in the Cornish theater department. “We wondered what sort of theater project to do with them. We threw in an open-mic night where we let them talk. As we went along, it became clearer that they wanted to do a lot of writing a lot of them had a lot to say. A lot of them already identified as artists. Which was kind of surprising and awesome.”

The project has been a success and has expanded. “Two years ago we expanded our project after we received a generous grant from the mayor’s office of arts and culture,” says Detzer. “We expanded our project to be more long-term. We still have our shorter programs, but we were able to add a five-week program for the solid amount of youth who wish to continue playwriting.”


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