In addition to serving educational needs of young people through our Youtheatre program, North Shore Center is committed to presenting programs that reflect and celebrate the diversity of the community it serves. Some highlights from the 2015-2016 season included bringing in a company from New Zealand, a hip hop artist from Baltimore and creating an anti-bullying initiative.
Through a grant from the Rice Young People’s Endowment, North Shore Center was proud to host Paige Hernandez for our first artist-in-residence program. Named a “classroom hero” by Huffington Post and a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, she is a multifaceted artist, known for her innovative fusion of poetry, hip hop, dance and education. In her performance of Havana Hop, the audience gets to dance along in this dynamic participation play where one multi-cultural actress creates three generations of lively women.
In addition to Youtheatre performances at the North Shore Center, Hernandez took Havana Hop to Baker Demonstration School in Wilmette. A workshop with third grade students included a mural and knowledge relay. Integrating current class curriculum, they discussed the influence of Great Chicago Fire particularly on the immigration population of the area, and shared their own stories of being part of a community.
With the support of Rotary Club of Skokie Valley, the North Shore Center embraced the opportunity to approach the subject of bullying and cyber bullying in the community after threats on Instagram forced a middle school in the area to be closed for two days while the incident was investigated. Two presentations in the Youtheatre 2015-2016 season, I am Jack and Out of Bounds, provided educators a story as a framework to facilitate discussions. Recognizing that bullying doesn’t happen in a vacuum, these plays were chosen because they offered context for targets, instigators and bystanders so that audiences empathized with several characters. Post show discussions engaged all audiences, and teachers were provided with complimentary extension materials to take this important topic back into their classrooms.
In November 2015, young school children learned what happens when a simple taunt grows into insidious bullying. I am Jack shared how an outgoing, helpful young boy becomes isolated and afraid when he is continually a target of a classmate.
Out of Bounds confronts the growing issue of cyber-bullying from the two different perspectives. The school day Youtheatre performance was geared towards middle school children and told the story of a girl being cyber bullied. This play offered unique insight by providing viewpoints of several of the characters as events unfolded around them.
Through the generosity of Arts Midwest Touring Fund and New England Foundation for the Arts, North Shore Center held a free public performance in the evening of Out of Bounds for all parents, teachers and students grades 5th grade and up. This performance told the same story through the lens of the adults involved with the students. The Center’s education manager facilitated a post show discussion and provided adults and children access to three panelists: School District Superintendent Kate Donegan, author and bullying expert Carrie Goldman, and clinical psychologist Hollie Sobel.
INDIAN INK THEATER COMPANY
The New Zealand team of long-time collaborators, Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis, strive to make work that is beautiful, funny, sad and true. The ‘serious laugh’ (using laughter to open the audience to deeper themes) is central to the company’s approach, along with a love of mask and of story. The company blends western theatrical traditions with eastern flavors and has been critically-acclaimed for its use of live music, heightened theatricality, humour, pathos and great storytelling.
Indian Ink Theatre Company performed The Elepant Wrestler which was supported by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust in October, 2015. With Lewis’ musical accompianment, Jacob Rajan expertly depicts 17 characters in this play with the assistance of the superbly crafted masks. Our first ever artist residency involved Rajan working with students at three different schools to discuss movement and mask work. Students worked with Jacob and his authentic Balinese masks to perform a traditional topeng dance.
Young people are important to the North Shore Center. In addition to the in school workshops and hundreds of free tickets provided to Youtheatre attendees, more than 4,000 young people dance, sing or act on the North Shore Center stages via the numerous dance recitals, school performances and performing arts training programs offered at the Center. Through a partnership with the Skokie Fine Arts Commission, each March the Center’s lobby becomes a welcoming home to art created by children from schools in Skokie. The North Shore Center is also a yearly sponsor of the Skokie Public Library’s popular summer reading program for kids.
To further inspire the child’s interest in culture and the arts, the North Shore Center was proud to partner with the Skokie Public Library and USO Illinois for a special program for children, which included a backstage tour of our two theatres, lessons on theatre etiquette and a sneak peek at Salt Creek Ballet’s rehearsal process. In our 2015-2016 season, the North Shore Center also provided USO Illinois families complimentary tickets to presentations that included Dianne Reeves, Three Little Birds, Lightning Thief and Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players.