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Category Archive: Backstage Pass

  1. Kelly Strayhorn Theater Provides Unique Venue for Voices of Social Change

    2.10.19

    The mission of the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) is to strengthen the performing arts globally through the advancement of leadership, the exchange of ideas, and by fostering a diverse and engaged membership. At this year’s gathering in New York City, our Executive Director janera Solomon had the honor of being the keynote speaker. “As arts organizations, we have new realities. Locale matters.”, she said. “We have to better understand the communities, neighborhoods, even streets where we are located, not only as places for our offices or performance venues but as ecosystems. Yes, we know we need communities as donors, audiences, volunteers, etc. but, we have to see ourselves as part of a neighborhood ecology.”

    She encouraged the group of arts leaders from around the world to think locally and compassionately.

    “To not only be bold in our thinking, to also be compassionate, encouraging of each other, to see the unique potential. As we move forward, as arts leaders, we have to ask: do our institutions, in the office, backstage, or in the board room, reflect the ideals, and the values, we champion in our communities? Are our boardroom and water cooler conversations, especially about the thorny issues of our time — race, class, orientation — transparent, thoughtful, enlightened? How will the places where we work, mirror the ideals of the art we make? Do we have institutional cultures that foster the habits we want to see in a more thoughtful world?”

    janera’s address was well received by a crowd made up of 639 delegates from 51 countries around the world.

    Learn more about ISPA here.

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  2. Kelly Strayhorn Theater Provides Unique Venue for Voices of Social Change

    2.10.19

    This past year we have provided stage space and creative space for artists and voices that might not otherwise be heard.  At the MLK Day Celebration, we became a great cloud of witnesses to artwork focused on Black Lives Matter, women empowerment, and the struggle of coming out and living transgender in an unaccepting world.  At our Keyword: International event, we gathered around artist that push the boundaries and demanding that we as a people talk about the things we don’t want to talk about – racism, sexism, poverty, injustice.  And at our My People Queer Arts Showcase, artists who might not be welcome in other venues were provided space and stage for their voices to be heard.

    As there are most certainly loud voices in our city who would like to see the Kelly Strayhorn theater sterilized or homogenized, we continue to push forward to be a beacon of light in our community, providing a venue for the non-sterilized and un-homogenized so that change can come and set us all free.  Take a look at all the ways KST is more than a theater.

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  3. On Art and Community

    7.05.18

    KST launched, “Pay-What-Makes-You-Happy,” as our ticketing model in 2015. Like ideas, it started with a, “what if…” rather than a fully formed concept. For some, it’s a feel-good venture, and others a stronger statement about inclusion; for us it is both.

    Pay-What-Makes-You-Happy (PWMYH) furthers Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s role as cultural hub where all of Pittsburgh can come together to make new connections, encounter great artists, and take part in lively energy of East Liberty.

    What should arts organizations do in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods? KST was invited to be part of the Kresge Arts and Culture Cohort with PolicyLink and this is the question we are exploring.

    We have complicated choices. Should we turn our backs on our old audiences, and embrace the new? Or, take on the more difficult task of bringing people, who don’t normally socially mix, together?

     

    A little bit of context.

     

    According to recent NEA study, Performing arts about 37% of adults attend a performing arts event. In Pennsylvania, the average is 35%.  We don’t have Pittsburgh numbers but in our state it means that nearly 70% of our neighbors, friends, colleagues and family members, do not on a regular basis, attend a performing arts event. And, when they do, often it is by invitation.

    This low participation rate and the increasing economic (and cultural divides) are the reasons why KST launched our ticketing model, Pay-What-Makes-You-Happy. In the context of economic and cultural gentrification, this approach takes on new significance.

    We find ourselves with a bigger mission. We are trying to encourage more than mutual co-existence. We want shared sense of belonging. By definition, a community. Shared values and commitment.

    PWMYH, like many choose your price models, is designed to empower and encourage participation.

     

    What it is not.

    It is not a marketing campaign, (though we agree Pay What Makes You Happy sounds better than “Pay What You Can! It is not an excuse to pay nothing. And, it is not a social welfare program.

    PWMYH is one attempt removing barriers. art is not only for “those people.” It is about agency — choice. This is about community and bringing people together, respectfully; with their humanity intact — so discounted tickets or comps if you are in “need.”

    In a cultural landscape where nearly 70% of adults no not regularly participate in an arts and culture on a regular basis, this is about encouraging a different kind of cultural risk taking. How will you know what you don’t know, or challenge what you think you know without trying something new, doing what you usually do.

     

    I hope art changes our perceptions.

    We know that arts, whether it is in a theater or in a church basement, makes a difference, a TRANSFORMATIVE difference in people’s lives.

    Because of KST’s location, at the intersection of low income neighborhoods, and Pittsburgh’s wealthiest, this has been and continues to be critical question for us.  East Liberty has a history as a meeting place – a hub. It is a diverse community — all kinds of people are here. Everyone benefits from this diversity.

    In this neighborhood, and on this avenue, as I’ve experienced it, we are a community of equals. Everyone’s humanity is recognized. For people who live, work and create here, diversity, especially in the arts, isn’t tolerated it’s celebrated.  I hope its an ideology the entire city will embrace.

    At KST, generosity is matched with creativity to make transformative art experiences come to life,” says executive director janera solomon. “Every day, we are inspired by the giving spirit of the artists, philanthropists, foundations and audiences that make KST events a neighborhood celebration. Pay What Makes You Happy is a bold experiment that invites everyone’s participation in our uniquely diverse programming.”

    Given the politics of our community, our world, the effort might raise all kinds of questions about equity, access, As far as we know, these two very different american icons never met. They had very different life experiences, and though both artists, lived very different artistic lives.

    “In the 1970s, 70 percent of people lived in middle class neighborhoods, but today only 40 percent do. The effect is that people in different socioeconomic groups do not spend time with one another. That lack of contact causes different points of view for sure, but it also leads to very different outcomes in life.”

     

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/your-money/money-bubble-economic-inequality.html

     

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  4. Thaddeus Phillips – Artist Spotlight

    4.10.18

    Image from 2013 showing of '17 Boarder Crossings' by Thaddeus Phillips

    Photo Credits – Mark Simpson Photography

    The Kelly Strayhorn Theater welcomes​ back Thaddeus Phillips, a true vanguard in contemporary American theater. Phillips artistic practice has been presented worldwide ranging from FringeArts Philadelphia to the hit Netflix crime-drama NARCOS.

    KST Communications Specialist; Duane Binion sat down with the acclaimed artist to learn more about Phillip’s latest piece INFLATABLE SPACE slated to premiere at the KST Alloy Studios, Friday, Aril 13 – 14, 2018 at 8:00pm. Tickets are Pay What Makes You Happy, and available online at www.kelly-strayhorn.org


     

    This is your Pittsburgh/Kelly Strayhorn Theater return! How do you feel about coming back? What significance do you see in presenting the World Premiere of INFLATABLE SPACE at KST?

    The Kelly Staryhorn Theater is an extraordinary place to present creative theatrical work. Performing ’17 BORDER CROSSINGS’ at KST was wonderful and the interaction with Pittsburgh audiences and members of the theatrical and artistic community was just fantastic. For me it is quite significant to be opening this new project in Pittsburgh, as I find the city to be a vibrant and vital place where very crazy ideas can be freely explored, presented and discussed.

    How did the collaboration with yourself, Ean Sheehy, Juan Gabriel, and Spencer Sheridan come about for the creation of INFLATABLE SPACE?

    The creative team for INFLATABLE SPACE consists of artists I have worked with extensively in the past – as the idea for this work is very challenging; it is key to have a team.

    Ean Sheehy played E.A. Poe in ‘RED-EYE to HAVRE de GRACE’ a musical theater work presented by New York Theatre Workshop and my company Lucidity in collaboration with the Wilhelm Bros. & Co. Ean is an amazing performer and a great thinker.

    Spencer Sheridan is an LA based video designer and all around digital/analoge renaissance man. A few months ago we realized projections could be used.

    Juan Gabriel has created scores for many works I have directed including, ‘Whale Optics’ and ‘A Billion Nights on Earth’ –  for this show he is coming on as a sound designer, working with us to select tracks from the Golden Rector and turn them into a score that is meant to really hold the show together.

    The secret weapon behind the dramaturgy is my wife, Tatiana Mallarino who is responsible for keeping the ideas in check and has been the main ‘writer’ along with me in conjuring up the storyboard and developing the use of the inflatables.

    Originally this project was titled “The Archivist”, why did you change the title? How did you come up with the name INFLATABLE SPACE?

    ‘The Archivist’ was the first genesis of this project. Perhaps now it is even an entirely different show – it was about a film archive. However, the ultimate archive, essentially of all life on earth, is the Voyager Interstellar Golden Record – that was launched on Voyager 1 in 1977. This probe, with the record strapped to it’s side, contains, of course, music and images from across the world. It is currently entering interstellar space and has a shelf lfie of about 100 Billion years. We are using this record and it’s songs to ground the ideas behind ‘INFLATABLE SPACE’, and therefore – that germ, that idea of an ‘archive’ now has gone galactic and remains at the center of this theatrical exploration.

    The description of INFLATABLE SPACE currently describes the work as “Phillips weaves together idiosyncratic juxtapositions in a dramatic tale about possible extraterrestrial life, moments on earth and new interstellar discoveries.” Can audiences expect to see references to aliens, are there comedic moments, or any other underlying surprises we can expect?

    This is a very crazy project that has been developing organically and morphing constantly and taking many surprising turns. The exciting aspect of creating work this way is you don’t know what road it will take you down, and in this case, ‘cosmic road.’ The danger of creating work this way is, well, you don’t know what road it will take you down. We are working as well in collaboration with the Creamos Inflatable Factory in Bogota, Colombia on the inflatable design elements for ‘INFLATABLE SPACE’. Working with air is a tricky and invigorating business, what you see on paper is not what happens when you inflate an object – therefore what we thought was one thing on the drafting table became something else in reality – and in this way the show has been ‘discovered’ or created by its own velocity – and we are along for the ride. The surprises audiences can expect are seeing a work emerge from nothing – and a very odd sequence of a simple journey of two, accompanied by the music from the Voyager Golden Record.

    My team and I are inspired by old vuadvulle routines, Chaplin, Beckett and Keaton and there should be glimpses of inspiration in this work – as well as scientific principals of space and time. And yes, perhaps Ean and I are aliens the whole time. Or perhaps we are two NASA lab technicians installing the Golden Record on the Voyager 1 Probe in 1977 – or we are both in a time loop coming back on itself – like a black hole . . . our goal is to set up a fun dynamic work that leaves many of these questions very open but puts in the spectators minds and lets them play with the ideas we are putting out there.

    It is also absolutely fascinating that the TESS telescope is launching the day after we close at KST – and will be searching for more exo planets – planets that could sustain life, which opens up the mind to the ideas we are playing with in ‘INFLATABLE SPACE’.

    Tell me about the promo video being used for INFLATABLE SPACE. What is some of the imagery being shown and its purpose?

    The video is made from research shots in Bogota in collaboration with the Creamos Inflatable Factory in Bogota and the deployment of some of these items at the Miami Light project during a residency in February. The images are of the inflatables in a theater, the golden record reprint we found as well as scale model tests of ideas for the final inflatable that we just finished last week.

    What are you hoping audiences take away from this performance?

    I am hoping this work will present and hour of time away from Earth – or away from the normal – a fun yet meditative space in which to reflect on what it means to be on this planet and also in the universe.

    What’s next for Thaddeus Phillips?

    Ill be creating and directing a new theater piece for Teateri, a company in Sweden in June. It will be an action adventure called ‘Midnight Train to Marrakesh’. Also, ‘A Billion Nights on Earth’ a work I directed and designed for 3 year olds and up – it will be presented at the New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas in June.

     


     

    True to Phillip’s reputation “INFLATABLE SPACE” takes us on a journey of intelligence, humor,
    sarcasm, and wanderlust. ​Stay up-to-date with the latest happenings around Thaddeus Phillips by visiting him online at thaddeusphillips.com

    Thaddeus Phillips :: INFLATABLE SPACE

    EVENT DETAILS
    Friday – Saturday, April 13 – 14, 2018
    8:00pm / KST Alloy Studios
    5530 Penn Ave :: Map

    SHOW LENGTH
    55 mins / No Intermission

    “Protean, often funny, and somehow the audience’s ally. He typically offers a wry and compassionate, if sometimes barbed, take on contemporary issues.”—American Theatre

    World Premiere KST Commission
    For his latest work, award-winning director/designer/performer Thaddeus Phillips teams up with critically acclaimed actor Ean Sheehy to deploy an assemblage of custom-crafted inflatable scenery that expands, contracts and collapses as he explores a universe of creation and destruction. Starting with a reprinted edition of Carl Sagan’s legendary Golden Record—humanity’s most viable message to other worlds, launched into space in 1977—Phillips theatrically examines a selected archival history of life on earth.

    Visually stunning, Inflatable Space features Phillips’ playful work weaves together idiosyncratic juxtapositions in a dramatic tale about possible extraterrestrial life, moments on earth and new interstellar discoveries. Colombian pop star, Juan Gabirel Turbay creates a sonic landscape using the tracks on the Golden Record while LA based video artist, Spencer Sheridan delivers a playful and evocative video design that launches this work beyond normal theatrical conventions.

    Inflatable Space is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Miami Light Project and NPN. The Creation Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

    Made possible with generous support from the National Performance Network’s Artist Engagement Fund. For more information: www.npnweb.org.

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    TICKETS

     

    Pay What Makes You Happy! Tickets for this event are available at any price. Simply choose the level that makes you happy—or name your own! All seats are general admission.

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  5. Bringing the World Back to Our Community

    12.04.17

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” — Mark Twain

    There is something special about travel. People everywhere are the same; we come in the same types. Yet, the way we live — customs, values, concerns, cultural expressions vary deeply. And, in these variances lie opportunities for exchange and connection.

    In mid-October, I had the opportunity to participate in a curatorial exchange trip to Mexico, hosted by The Performing Americas Program (PAP). A long-time initiative of the National Performance Network/Visual Artists Network (NPN/VAN) International Program, PAP aims to build equitable cultural exchange opportunities for artists and presenters in the regions of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

    I was hesitant to go — the trip coincided with a board meeting and KST’s season opener of a work we co-commissioned!

    But, onward I went. And, I’m better for it. Connecting with colleagues gave me the energy boost I didn’t realize I needed. Our conversations with the artists and with each other stimulated lots of questions for consideration. How can we collaborate differently? How do we make better use of our resources for more ambitious ideas? How do we better support international artists in our community, and what are possibilities for exchanges? What resources do we have to offer? The practicalities of touring, visas, and travel costs aside, my colleagues stimulated my thinking about ways we might work together to foster communities of international collaboration.

    We visited two cities in Mexico – Guadalajara and Guanajuato – and witnessed live performances and exhibits while participating in much dialogue about building individual and regional relationships. Among the activities, we attended Guanajuato’s Festival Internacional Cervantino. Everyone in the community knew about the festival and excitedly took part, showing a real commitment to such programming.

    In Pittsburgh, we have a generous and luxurious scene for art making. We have resources to share. In Mexico, I was inspired by our conversations with the artists we met and the colleagues in the delegation. Let’s think more boldly about how we might use our resources to make Pittsburgh an INTERNATIONAL city.

    Looming through the experience was the current protectionist view assaulting public discourse – here we are dreaming of the possibilities, while visa quotas, plans for a wall, and an increasingly hostile climate to foreigners jockeys for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens. How disjointing. How heartbreaking.

    But, artists everywhere are resourceful and optimistic – as are presenters!

    I returned to my community in Pittsburgh, rejuvenated and inspired to do this work.

    What an honor it was to be part of this exchange program. And it will be a pleasure to incorporate what I’ve learned as we forge into our 10th anniversary year of original programming.

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  6. newMoves Fast Facts: Anthony Williams

    By Trevor Miles

    This spring, KST is presenting its sixth annual newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival! This festival brings young local and national choreographers to the stage to present a medley of four to five short works each night. Read more about the newMoves participants here before you see their new works on stage, May 7-9th!

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     Anthony Williams, Choreographer

     

    • Anthony’s exposure to art began when he was 16, after being cast as the Scarecrow in Black Ensemble’s production of The Wiz
    • Anthony graduated with a BFA in Musical Theater from Milikin University
    • Anthony has also worked with Deeply Rooted Productions and Pittsburgh August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble

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    • KST projects that Anthony has premiered include Identity (newMoves 2013) and Loving Black (Fresh Works, 2014).
    • Anthony’s newMoves piece this year is named beingHUMAN
    • beingHUMAN is influenced by Anthony’s time growing up in Boystown, Chicago, a heavily queer-populated area

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    Check out Anthony’s site, and read more about the newMoves Dance Festival here.

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  7. Pittsburgh Changemaker: Bilal Rey Abbey

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater is presenting local leaders that have been changemakers in Pittsburgh. Mentors, teachers, artists— KST acknowledges these pioneers. This is Our Story: KST Recognizes Pittsburgh Changemakers.

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    Bilal Rey Abbey, Heinz Endowment Fellow and Hip-Hip Artist

    1- What do you do for the community now and why is it important?

    I am currently a Heinz Fellow with The Heinz Endowments. The job of a Heinz Fellow is to act as a tutor and mentor for African American male youth in Pittsburgh public high schools. I have been an active fellow at Brashear High School for the last two years and I believe the work that Kevin McNair, Chance Wideman and myself are doing is a vital step in the process of African Americans reclaiming our community. Right now, the lowest achieving demographic in PPS (Pittsburgh Public Schools) is African American males. There are many factors as to why this disparity exists; none of them are ability. It’s my job to facilitate critical thinking and exposure for our young men so that they take control of their own academic pursuits and identities, and stop shying away from engaging with the school system.

    I am also a Hip-Hop artist and part of a group know as the Heroes & Terrorists (The H&T). We chose this name because “life is duality”. Regardless of your self-perception, point of view, and intention, there will also be those that are affected in a negative way by your actions. This is a theme that is present throughout all our music, and also in my programming and interactions with students.

     

    2- What is one defining moment of your life? (When you decided to do what you’re doing now).

    The defining moment in my life was when I made a song called Funk 4 Life. The song was lighthearted and focused on my past, present, and projected future experiences with school, music and manhood. After recording and mixing the song I realized that I really enjoyed making songs that doubled as personal notes on life. I realized that the music was helping me grow as a person, and from that moment on I felt that it was my calling to share the information I had gathered about personal growth on my journey with others so they might grow as well.

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    3- What advice do you want to share with the youth that want to become a changemaker in their community?

    The advice that I’d share with youth is always search for yourself. It might sound strange but it’s important to understand that you are never done growing as a person, and because you’re constantly growing you are always changing. You have to be diligent in working to understand yourself and your core values or your social media timeline will define them for you. It’s ok to try things that no one you know has ever done. It’s okay to be different. By fighting your growth you are being your own worst enemy. Lastly, I would provide this old African Proverb Brotha Leon Ford shared with me at the 10th grade We Promise Summit, “When there are no enemies within; the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”

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    4- What is a song on your playlist? (A song that motivates and drives you?).

    I believe that music is like food. I make a conscious effort to monitor what I ingest because it affects my output. This is especially true for music because being an artist myself, I am open to influence from other artists, whether it be delivery or content. The majority of music that I listen to is from my group the H&T because I am invested in our message and identifying ways we can be better. The H&T song that gets me ready for the day is a track called Gratitude, which is on our up-and-coming mix-tape called “Gritz & Grenades”. The track is about being grateful for the positives in life, and understanding that you’re not defined by your possessions. The second track I would say that gets me ready for the day is Respiration on the Black Star album.

     

    Listen to Abbey’s pick for his motivational track, Gratitude and can check out his YouTube for more videos.


     

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  8. Pittsburgh Changemaker: Duane Binion

    By Trevor Miles

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater is presenting local leaders that have been changemakers in Pittsburgh. Mentors, teachers, artists— KST acknowledges these pioneers. This is Our Story: KST Recognizes Pittsburgh Changemakers.

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    Duane Binion, Associate Producer of Kelly Strayhorn Theater/ Co-Founder of True T Entertainment

     

     

     1- What do yolovingblack_07nu do for the community now and why is it important?

    As the Associate Producer of Kelly Strayhorn Theater & Co-Founder of True T INC. /True T Entertainment, community engagement is extremely important to me. I try my best to stay up-to-date with current happenings, not only within the city of Pittsburgh, but also worldwide. Although many world issues may not seem as if they will effect our community directly, there is always the potential so I find it very important to stay informed. I like to understand and see the world through the eyes of others and immerse myself in unfamiliar situations in order to get a better feel for the struggles of others.

     

    Both Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) and True T Entertainment pride ourselves in creating programming that is inclusive, responsive to community concerns, and supporting community members that may be categorized as underprivileged and/or underserved minority populations. Throughout the year at KST we provide “KST Family” series that are Pay-What-You-Can events—giving the option of paying anywhere from $1 to any dollar amount—in efforts to provide events that members of all ages can attend at an affordable cost. During these events, we provide everyday life resources, engaging actives, youth performances, and a judgment-free atmosphere for patrons of all ages, races, religions, and gender identities to attend.

     

    As Co-Founder of True T Entertainment we focus our efforts more specifically on the underprivileged, underserved LGBTQIA population. True T Entertainment is a social media based up-and-coming non-profit organization with a large presence in the African American/Latino tri-state ballroom community. Our mission is to provide everyday life resources, HIV/STD testing and prevention, and unique safe spaces throughout the year for local youth, and ballroom participants from all over America to come together and compete in friendly, competitive events for grand prize money, trophies, and ballroom acknowledgement. We offer discounts to participants who attend different True T Entertainment, HIV/STD awareness seminars and as well as offer free testing during our events.

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    Being active and supportive in the community is important to me because leaders come in all forms, and in today’s age I believe there is room for growth in leadership statistics for young black women and men. I am passionate about providing resources to community members that may not have access to otherwise. I believe the only people who “fail” are those who complain but have never tried to fix the problem, so I do my best to never accept being placed in any sort of box created by society.

     

    2- What is one defining moment of your life? (When you decided to do what you’re doing now).

    One defining moment in my life would be enrolling in AmeriCorps as part of the 2013-14 Pittsburgh Public Allies. Initially, I had already been involved in the local LGBTQIA community through True T Entertainment, which appeals to a very specific LGBTQIA community of people. I had always been curious of ways to be more involved with the community, however I just never could exactly figure out where to start. Applying to be in the Pittsburgh Public Allies took a good amount of effort, and I knew early on that if the process of being accepted was this detailed and time consuming, I had better be ready for a long road ahead.

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    Pittsburgh Public Allies is roughly a one year-long leadership development program that helps to mold and shape the leaders of tomorrow while providing resources, networking opportunities, trainings, and onsite internships with local non-profit organizations. This program helped me so much, through the information shared during our weekly Friday trainings about the ins and outs of working in and creating non-profits. They would place us in groups and face us with unfamiliar situations (called a TSP or Team Service Project) in which you are assigned a local neighborhood, and given the task of creating a sustainable project within the community, and assist in improving on an agreed upon issue. This project required us to scout the community for other local leaders to create partnerships, as well as socialize with community members to understand what the residents of the community feel was most important to address.

     

    In the end, we decided to create a partnership with the Greenfield Terrace, a senior citizens’ home, as well as Greenfield Elementary School in efforts to create a video project that would help to bridge the intergenerational gap. We also learned through various residents about the lack of respect between the local youth and elders. Overall, our project was successful, although we ran into many obstacles along the way. In the end, we created a video project showcasing the personal life stories of the Greenfield elders and gave the youth a more personable representation of the elders they had become so accustomed to disrespecting.

     

    For msuitelife14__35ne this was a small step in the right direction. After realizing how much impact a project of this capacity had on Greenfield community members, I realized how many other local issues could be just as feasible with the right attention paid to them.

    3- What advice do you have for youth that want to become a change maker in their community?

    My advice to the next generation of game-changers & youth leaders would be to always follow your passion. It’s much easier to wake up with a smile everyday through the stress when you’re passionate about the cause! I have come to learn that in this world we live in, sometimes life can seem overwhelming with expectations placed on us by family, friends, and outsiders as you try to fit into what society classifies as the “social norm”. The reality of it all is it’s 2015, and there is no such thing as a “social norm”—every gamechanger faces obstacles and in order to overcome these obstacles you must first be passionate about the cause you’re fighting for, and go into the fight knowing that it may not be an easy feat. Is anything worth fighting for ever an easy battle? Engage your local community; let your face be seen at community events, and network, network, network!

    4- What is a song on your playlist? (A song that motivates and drives you).

    Castles by Dawn Richard… and lots of Beyonce!

     

    Click here for videos from True T! 

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  9. Reed Dance: Rejoice Fast Facts

    Reed Dance has partnered with Reflections Theatre Co-op for a brand new fundraising event, Rejoice: A Celebration of Faith.  Read more about Reed Dance and this event in the Fast Facts Below!

     

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    Photos Courtesy of Pittsburgh Post Gazette 

    • Ms. Greer Reed serves as the head choreographer for Reed Dance
    • Reed Dance evolved from the August Wilson Dance Ensemble during their 2013-14 season
    • Ms. Greer has trained with the Pittsburgh Black Dance Ensemble, Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, Dance Theater of Harlem and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company
    • Ms. Reed was also the artistic director of the previous Dance Alloy Theater Company, before its merger with the Kelly Strayhorn Theater
    • This piece, Rejoice, is a collaboration with Reflections Theater Co-op, and theater/ music students from CAPA High School
    • Rejoice is a testament to faith and will feature various genres of performing arts and work by multiple artists in Pittsburgh including  Anthony Williams, Karla “Spirit-Lead” Payne, Andrew D. Kelly Mime Ministry and more.

     

    You can read an Examiner.com article about Rejoice here!

    Show Time: Friday, March 27th and Saturday March 28th 7 PM (on the 27th, there will be a VIP reception).

    Price: $25 General Admission, $35 VIP

    Tickets are available at the door, cash or credit only.

     

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  10. Pittsburgh Changemaker: Blak Rapp Madusa

    By Trevor Miles

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater is presenting local leaders that have been changemakers in Pittsburgh. Mentors, teachers, artists— KST acknowledges these pioneers. This is Our Story: KST Recognizes Pittsburgh Changemakers.

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    Blak Rapp Madusa, Activist/Songwriter/Poet

     

    What do you do for the community now and why is it important?

    I don’t think about what I can do for the community, but more about what the community does for me. Although the Black community may be disenfranchised there is still something authentically beautiful about our resilience and survival. The work I do is inspired by the community and supported by it. For example, I write songs about oppression and poverty, an experience that all communities of color seem to endure. Most people of color support my work and hold me in spaces that pay homage to my craft.

     

    blackrapp
    What is one defining moment of your life?

     

    One defining moment in my life is getting a full scholarship to go to college and then transferring to the University of Pittsburgh. I took so many African Studies classes that I had to change my major. It was this experience that began my work as an activist and an artist.

     

    What advice do you have for youth that want to become a changemaker in their community?
     My advice for youth is to be great! Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t great, because the creator of us all doesn’t make mistakes and has created us in greatness. We need to honor ourselves, our families and communities in order to reach the tip-top of our potential.

     

    What is a song from your playlist? (a song that really motivates you?

    My motivational song is Kendrick Lamar’s I love Myself. 

     

    Check out Blak Rapp Madusa’s video Rapture!

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