For kids on summer break, lots of time off can be challenging. On the one hand, they have more freedom to do what they want; on the other, those long unstructured days can be a little dull and aimless. Fortunately, Seattle Parks and Recreation has a number of ways to keep young people learning, engaged and having fun all summer. From activity and nature camps to outdoor education and conservation programs, there are many programs for young folks to consider joining.
The Teen Summer Musical is one such opportunity. A longstanding joint effort between Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and the Office of Arts & Culture, the annual musical gives youth of color a chance to use their talents in a professional production, and to significantly increase life, work and social skills. More than 100 young people participated in this year’s show, spending 400 hours on the project between June 26 and opening night on August 27 at the Moore Theater. During that time they presented 6 theatrical and 2 community performances, marched in 3 parades, and built a community they’ll never forget.
This summer’s production was an adaptation of The Wiz, in which Dorothy and her friends learn that power and confidence were inside them all along. “We are living in a time where our youth are being led to believe that brilliance is defined or possessed by power, prestige and money,” says director Isiah Anderson Jr. He adds that a major goal of the Teen Summer Musical is to help participants obtain the tools and the skillset to help define their own brilliance, rather than relying on a fictional idea of success.
In fact, being in the Teen Summer Musical has long-lasting positive effects on participants. In addition to the community they built, over 75% improved their public speaking and acting skills; 85% grew more comfortable receiving feedback, and 72% learned and practiced problem solving skills.
These participant survey results indicate that Seattle Parks and Recreation’s teen and young adult programs are working. Through a broad array of recreation-based programs, SPR’s aim is to help develop empowered, self-determined young adults who manage the course of their lives successfully. SPR’s involvement also enhances community development and promotes organizations that enable youth to move into adulthood, by providing access to programs that increase their information about life options.
“So many times our kids get recognized or observed for what they don’t do, how they’re not succeeding, how they’re not excelling,” says Music Director Michelle Lang. “So this is one of those occasions where we put them in front of an audience, we put them in front of a community honestly, and we say look, they’re good, they can do good. Not only can they do good, they can do great, they can do brilliant.”
If audience reaction was any indication, the participants were brilliant beyond everyone’s imagination!
Watch this page early next year for announcements about the 2018 Teen Summer Musical!