For over 25 years, Theatre Forward member Manhattan Theatre Club has worked with young people confronting the challenges of poverty, trauma, and involvement in the justice system through innovative education programs in schools and juvenile detention facilities around the New York area. Each year, MTC Education programs bring the collaborative and creative nature of theatre to almost 2,500 young people, empowering and encouraging them to re-imagine their lives and give voice to their thoughts, hopes, and dreams.

The transformative impact of theatre is especially evident in MTC Education’s newest program for court-involved young people, Stargate Theatre. Since its inception in 2013, each summer Stargate Theatre has provided approximately 10-20 young men with transitional employment, work-readiness training, and literacy education in a creative theatrical environment intended to improve members’ employment prospects while boosting their skills and self-esteem. With the guidance of professional theatre artists and educators, Stargate company members compose a drama in an intensive theatre-making process, meeting for three hours almost every weekday afternoon for seven weeks. The program culminates with a performance of an original theatrical piece reflecting their collective identity and their aspirations, ideas and fears about themselves and the world.

The primary aim of Stargate is not so much to turn participants into theatre artists, but rather to instill in them crucial workplace and life skills, e.g., discipline, resilience, teamwork, creative problem solving. To build job readiness skills, Stargate Theatre employs participants, paying them minimum wage. Members receive coaching in “soft skills” such as commitment to participation and collaboration, and participate in résumé writing and job-interview workshops.

You can catch a glimpse of the Stargate Theatre process in action by watching a new documentary filmed by WLIW public television in summer 2015. Stargate Theatre: A Defining Act, is a powerful and moving portrait of the 18 young men who came together through Stargate Theatre to write and perform Deeper Than Skin.

Visit http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/education/stargate/ to learn more about Stargate Theatre and support the project.