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This year The Rosenthal Theater’s Youth Performance Ensemble, along with the Inner-City Arts Repertory Dance Company, performed Anywhere & Everywhere, In Our America, a multimedia production of theater, dance, and video work that explored the stories of America that divide, bind, and inspire us. This production tackled difficult topics — the border crisis, gun violence, cyberbullying, gender identity, police brutality, and more. Directed and choreographed by teaching artist Marissa Herrera, Anywhere & Everywhere, In Our America made its debut on Saturday, August 3 to two sold-out shows.
Over the course of the summer, the cast of Anywhere & Everywhere, in Our America engaged in multiple creative writing workshops with Inner-City Arts alumnus and multimedia artist Trey Bain, which culminated in original works the students performed alongside pieces of established playwrights and choreographers. Each cast member was asked to reflect on what their America looks like. Their responses were honest, raw, and complex. For Kaiden, his America looks like “a place of injustice, where the balances are tipped towards the straight, cis-gendered, white, and wealthy. It feels diminished, tarnished, and sad.”
“In my America, I work hard and study hard. I try to find my passion while still worrying about my future, my family’s future,” says Magda, Work of Art student and Assistant to the Director. “In my America, I’m scared to fail and I’m scared to become the failure society wants us to be. Sometimes I don’t fit in. We are trying to live while trying to survive. We are trying to prove America wrong.”
For our young people, this is their America. How do they comprehend their realities and cope accordingly? How do young people make their voices heard when they cannot even vote? For these teens, art is a way to ensure their stories are heard, seen, and valued. Art becomes a way to engage in healthy dialogue, process their experiences, and transform pain into hope. In Anywhere & Everywhere, in Our America, Cindy, 17, performing a monologue from Anna Deveare Smith’s play Twilight, shouts, “I know I have the power.”
While the America of our students is a difficult, complex maze, this year’s Youth Performance Ensemble showed us that our young people have the power to change it.
Photos courtesy of Anthony Tran.