We want to take a moment to introduce you to the incredible teams of teaching artists that create our education and community programs. First up, our partner company in the Big Green Theater program, SUPERHERO CLUBHOUSE and its Co-Directors JEREMY PICKARD and LANXING FU!
Now in its 9th year, Big Green Theater is an environmental justice and playwriting program that serves after-school arts education in Bushwick elementary schools. This program is the product of a long-standing creative collaboration between the Starr and Superhero Clubhouse, a New York-based community of artists, scientists, and environmental professionals invested in a long-term experiment to understand how theater can help shift consciousness in the face of global climate change. Led by Directors Jeremy Pickard and Lanxing Fu, Superhero Clubhouse unites ecology and theater to enact justice, cultivate hope, and inspire a thriving future.
Through BGT, Superhero Clubhouse aims to offer a way into our new, global climate reality through a personal, local lens. The BGT curriculum is rooted in scientific rigor and climate justice - BGT teaching artists are joined by guest scholars from places like the Climate Nexus, Billion Oyster Project, NASA, Next Epoch Seed Library, El Puente, and NYC Park Rangers to provide practical research inspiration for the student playwrights. Additionally, because SHC takes a holistic approach to eco-theater, their production practices are centered around ecological values: from solar-powered LED lights, to recycled props and sets, to repurposed costumes, everything you see on stage in the Big Green Theater Festival exemplifies how theater makers can proactively and creatively make choices to reduce their environmental footprint.
Superhero Clubhouse says, "Big Green Theater with the Bushwick Starr has been a cornerstone of our work for almost ten years. It's grown to be a strong example of our goal to building bridges across disciplines, generations, and communities. To us, the act of making theater is a microcosm for society, a space to collectively develop the tools we need to adapt our society to global climate change. It's all about people getting together in a room to think critically about complicated questions, imagine alternative worlds, and to build empathy, especially with the most vulnerable among us. In service of bringing as many folks as possible into this process, we cast a wide net with our programs beyond BGT. We make original performances for adults and youth, we run a paid Fellowship for two individuals from disparate disciplines to make work centered on environmental justice, and we offer Public Workshops which are free and open creative spaces for confronting the complexity of our new climate reality through theater."
The Starr is proud to call Superhero Clubhouse our partner in Big Green Theater. We invite you to see it in person at this year’s Festival in April, and they also offer a wide variety of eco-theater programs and performances all year round that we hope you’ll check out and support! You can visit them on the web at superheroclubhouse.org to learn more. Thank you Jeremy, Lanxing, and the entire SHC team for being a powerful force for good in our community!
Next up in our Partner Spotlight series, the creators of our new Senior Storytelling program, RACHEL KAUDER NALEBUFF and CAITLIN RYAN O’CONNELL!
Caitlin and Rachel are collaborating with the Starr this season to bring the arts into two Bushwick senior centers, Riseboro Ridgewood Bushwick and Round Table. Our neighborhood includes a growing senior population, but seniors often don’t enjoy equitable access to the arts that have come to define Bushwick in the cultural imagination. By encouraging them to share their stories, Rachel and Caitlin not only aim to unify our neighbors across generational, cultural, and class divides, but to preserve the oral tradition of the place we call home.
Senior Storytelling trains 30 seniors in the art of storytelling - how to craft a narrative, shape conflict, build characters, and deliver messages. They engage in group conversations as a prompt, investigating identity as a kaleidoscope of many selves: How are we different from when we were children and how are we the same? How do we contain all the places we've lived within us? All the people we've loved? What futures are we holding in our imaginations? Professional playwrights and theatermakers work one-on-one with a senior partner to record their stories, all the while building authentic intergenerational personal and artistic relationships with one another.
We at the Starr are so proud to partner with Rachel, Caitlin, and their team of teaching artists to expand our service to seniors in our community. The seniors will be sharing their stories with an audience later on this Spring, we’ll be sure to let you know how you can check out their work! You can also follow Caitlin and Rachel in all their creative pursuits at their personal websites: caitlinryanoconnell.com and itsrachelkaudernalebuff.com
For this week’s Partner Spotlight, we are so proud to introduce you to SHY RICHARDSON and LUIS MUNIVE, the Program Directors of EL PUENTE BUSHWICK LEADERSHIP CENTER!
We at the Starr look up to El Puente as an outstanding example of leadership in arts and social justice in our community. El Puente has been active in North Brooklyn since 1982, and for three decades has operated their center in Bushwick to nurture holistic leadership for youth from age 13-21. Though they offer a wide range of programs that support educational mastery and inspire transformative social action, El Puente considers participation in the arts central to their mission, and a powerful tool to educate and organize the community. Shy and Luis lead a team of artists and educators that serve its teenaged members year-round.
Since 2017, the Starr has partnered with El Puente to offer a workshop series called Creating Performance in the summer and fall. Teens in this program learn all of the fundamentals of theatermaking through acting and writing exercises, design workshops, and field trips to see performances across NYC. Through this work, they create their own original performance pieces that incorporate playwriting, poetry, improvisation, and movement. They learn powerful tools for self expression and self determination by creating their own work, and discover ways to tell stories that address their own lives and the world they live in.
El Puente members come see every play in our season for free, and have formed authentic connections with our theater and our artists. Several El Puente members have become interns, and some have gone on to work on our production teams or our staff. In just a few years, the Starr and El Puente have discovered lots of ways that our organizations can support and care for each other, and are proud to share and work towards our common vision for arts equity in Bushwick.
El Puente offers performances, workshops and festivals all year round, so please follow their work and support their youth members! The El Puente Bushwick Leadership Center is located at 311 Central Avenue, and you can find them online at https://elpuente.us/. Thanks to Luis, Shy, and everyone at El Puente for being our partners, and for supporting young leaders in our community!
If you’ve been coming to the Starr for a while, you might already know this week’s Community Partner - our longtime creative collaborator MODESTO FLAKO JIMENEZ and his company OYE GROUP!
Flako is the Artistic Director of Oye Group, an incubator for artists both native and immigrant to New York City. Though theater, dance, poetry, music, video installations and film, Oye Group curates work that sparks a dialogue over political and social issues critical to our community’s growth.
Flako has played almost any role you could think of over his years at the Starr - he’s performed on our Main Stage, taught and acted in Big Green Theater, mentored El Puente students, and now serves as a year-round Youth + Community Programmer on our staff along with Vanessa Felix (whom you’ll meet next week!) With Oye Group, Flako curates our annual Summer Arts Festival, a free family-friendly day of arts activities, workshops, and bilingual performances in Maria Hernandez Park. Last summer’s festival treated hundreds of Bushwick residents to free performances by award-winning spoken word artist Elisabet Velasquez, and Darian Dauchan reprising his role in THE BROBOT JOHNSON EXPERIENCE.
This season, we’re thrilled to deepen this partnership by bringing Oye Group’s education program Shake on the Block to local middle school IS77. Students will study Romeo & Juliet in this spring’s course, breaking down the text as written by the Bard. Then, teaching artists will teach them how to adapt that text into contemporary language and street slang and perform their new adaptation for their families and peers. Shake on the Block reclaims Shakespeare, and makes it relevant to modern teen audiences.
Oye Group offers performances all over Brooklyn throughout the year - check them out at https://www.oyegroup.org! We’re proud to call Oye Group our partner and to call Flako our friend.
Our final Partner Spotlight highlights our very own Youth + Community Programmer VANESSA FELIX, and her work on the Starr’s ARTS ACCESS INITIATIVES!
Vanessa is an actor, teaching artist, and multi-talented champion for access to the arts. She’s been making the Starr shine brighter since 2013, having performed in Big Green Theater and on the Main stage as well as teaching students in BGT and our El Puente workshops. Last season, Vanessa and Flako Jimenez joined the Starr staff to support our growing community and education programs and widen access to our work onstage.
The Youth + Community crew collaborates with every Main Stage creative team to identify audiences they want to reach, particularly those who don’t ordinarily attend theater, or for whom ticket prices might be a barrier to participation. They then organize groups and give out free or deeply discounted tickets so they can access our work. We give free Starr Season Tickets for every show to local theater groups like El Puente and My Voice Theater - and with our new Senior Storytelling program we plan to offer even more!
Vanessa and Flako often collaborate to arrange talkbacks and activities alongside the performances. They help create and support events that offer discounts and celebrate diverse audiences. They also engage with families of students in our education programs to invite them to see their work - hosting Coffee Nights to introduce parents and caretakers to teaching artists, calling families to arrange their free tickets, and throwing pizza parties after performances so we can celebrate the students together!
Our Youth + Community team is passionate about reaching out and welcoming our neighbors in Bushwick and across New York City, and they want to keep growing! Do you know of groups we could invite to a show? Have ideas about activities we could offer or events we could throw? Want to tell us about new places where we can share announcements and ticket offers? Please feel free to email Vanessa at firstname.lastname@example.org - she’d love to hear from you!