Production, community and education – these three elements form the essence of the 24th STreet Theater’s mission to the local community.
Founded in 1997 by Executive Director Jay McAdams, the 24th STreet Theater, located just blocks from Hoover’s USC campus, focuses on quality storytelling, a helping hand, and a platform for students and for adults to learn more about themselves and the world through the performing arts.
24th STreet Theater offers free “After Cool” after-school classes for local students in sophomores through high school, as well as a number of prep classes for high school students, teachers, and adults covering topics in leadership, leadership, and leadership. university and vocational training for teaching. The theater also offers classes in social justice, social-emotional learning, and unconscious bias.
“From 2020, when all schools were closed, everyone was locked down; we created a whole new thing online with live people. It’s not just a recording that we send them,” McAdams said. “[It’s] a whole team of teaching artists, musicians [and a] stage manager are all there, and we talk to the children in real time.
Additionally, the Theater’s Latinx programming, led by Associate Artistic Director Jesus Castaños-Chima, brings non-professional Spanish-speaking actors to the stage through the program’s community projects, Teatro del Pueblo. Most of the participants are parents or parents of students participating in after-school programs, Castaños-Chima said.
“To be able to provide them with that, to give them the tools to become a person, a better citizen. ‘Cause they don’t think about going to Hollywood and [making] films, professional theatre, even if some do it, it is not the intention. They just come here to entertain themselves to, like I said, enrich their lives in a different way, just to get out of their routines,” Castaños-Chima said. “It’s something that I really love and enjoy doing.”
Thanks to professional Spanish theater, Castaños-Chima and the Theater have toured different cities in Mexico.
According to Director of Educational Programs Arie Levine, the value of theater and the arts goes back to its basic form of physical storytelling.
“Art is entertainment, entertainment is art, and theater is in the world of storytelling,” Levine said. “There are so many ways to tell stories, but if you go back in time, it all comes down to a person and an audience, and theater really distills that storytelling relationship to its most vivid, in-person form. ”
Drama helps with social-emotional learning about awareness and empathy, as understanding characters’ perspectives through play can turn into real-life skills when encountering situations of conflict or disagreement, a Levine said. Especially due to the advancement of digital communication and the current pandemic, McAdams said the face-to-face interaction and communication required by the theater arts is necessary and valuable.
“At 24th STreet, we take the arts very seriously because we consider it essential, something crucial for human beings, for citizens to be more sensitive and [show] no more worry [and be] more aware of what is happening in our society,” Castaños-Chima said, “This is how we can fight crime, we can fight a lot of things – through [the performing] arts. »
But most importantly, through the performing arts, in whatever form, Levine said, “kids become themselves.”
24th STreet Theater productions reflect current social issues for family audiences that keep them up to date with the world in child-friendly presentations. Adding vivid relevance, but not without a hint of – what McAdams calls – magic, the productions have been called sophisticated enough to be adult theatre.
“Everything we do is important to our society…and we stage it in a very positive way,” Castaños-Chima said.
The latest production, “Rapunzel Alone”, put on in association with the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts and written by Mike Kenny, is about Lettie, a young girl of multiracial origin in London during the Second World War who is sent to the countryside to live with a stranger named Mrs. Pearce. Inspired by the original fairy tale’s themes of isolation and connection, the production also explores issues of race.
“The play is mostly about the relationship between Lettie and Ms. Pearce, who are both isolated in different ways, and their relationship going through a very strange time in their lives together,” Levine said. “Just like [how] we were inspired by the times we find ourselves in now with COVID, where so many people are feeling isolated and going through a time unlike anything we’ve been through in our lifetimes,”
Creatively addressing social ills for family audiences encourages the younger generation to be aware of them, while sharing an enjoyable and educational experience with friends and family, McAdams said.
“It wasn’t very long before the neighborhood started going in the doors, and I started to realize that [the Theatre] was a tool. Theater was most helpful if I used it as a tool to help people,” McAdams said, “But even beyond that, providing programs for children and offering help to community members when they need it, we do it in all sorts of ways. For me, that’s how it’s changed, because I now see theater not as “the place, the thing”, but as the place, the thing that we can help people with. »