Photograph by Manhattan Theater Club
“My shadow wears a mask to cover up his real self.”
– Jayquan, from DEEPER THAN SKIN
Esperanza participant Jayquan had no previous acting experience when he first stepped onto the New York City Center Stage as a member of the Stargate Theater Company. But when it was time for opening night, he was ready for his debut. The 6-week intensive program which was created by the Manhattan Theater Club brings together court-involved youth to collaborate on a creative endeavor. Ensemble members audition to be a part of the Company where they work together to write and perform a theatrical show. And, they are paid a salary to be a part of the program.
“In order to accomplish something good or big, you have to work hard, be consistent, and work through any challenges, if not you won?t get there” said Jayquan when asked what he learned from Stargate, “I also learned that expressing the real you is best and better for you.” For Jayquan, the experience of working collaboratively with a group of his male peers was eye-opening; “in the past I have felt guarded and not always able to show my true self, but with my Stargate company members, we became very close and I felt comfortable expressing myself and sharing my thoughts with them. Everyone was very supportive. We each had a personal story to tell and that we could relate to and we put that all together for one big play.”
Jayquan is one of several Esperanza participants and alumni that have participated in Stargate. Esperanza staff member Laura Thelander was at the opening night performance of DEEPER THAN SKIN. She said watching the young men deliver the honest and emotionally evocative piece was an experience she will never forget. “I was impressed by the creativity, insight, and talent of the young artists. It was so valuable to hear the personal stories of the participants and to learn about their perspectives on important social issues, like racism and poverty.” said Laura, “It was clear that this cohort of performers collaborated and developed their talents in this program to grow both as performers and as individuals.”
More than just theater skills, Stargate teaches life and job skills. As described on the Stargate website, “developing trust in oneself and others, collaborating on a creative endeavor, learning to give and accept constructive feedback these are more than the hallmarks of a successful theatrical process; they are positive life skills.” And this rang true for Jayquan, who reports he is now “more focused on my future and doing things that are good for me, like attending school every day and working hard.”
On Tuesday, October 6th, Jayquan and the rest of the Stargate ensemble will perform an encore production of DEEPER THAN SKIN at the New York City Center Stage II for an audience of family, friends, probation officers and supporters. Among the audience members at opening night were Esperanza staff members Laura Thelander, Krista Hughes, Laurence Fernandez, Daniel Herrera, Dorinda Webb and Gloria Viveros. On Oct. 6th, Laura plans to return to the encore performance for one more chance to cheer on Jayquan and his many accomplishments.
For more information on Stargate or to inquire about this or future performances, take a look at their website at: www.manhattantheatreclub.com/education/stargate/