Theatre, like many art forms, can serve as a platform for cultivating and uplifting people’s voices. The Manton Avenue Project achieves that uplift by providing space for the youth in Olneyville to explore their creative potential.
“To me, MAP is about valuing the voices of young people, specifically young people of color, and giving them a public forum to express themselves,” says Executive Director Meg Sullivan. MAP programming includes afterschool playwriting courses for third through sixth graders that are often tied to local organizations like Farm Fresh RI. The finished productions often include collaborations with other local theatres, such as the Wilbury Group and the Gamm. Manton also offers weekly meetings for middle schoolers called “MAP in the Middle” and a “Teen Voices” program for older students, many of whom started in third grade and grew up with the project.
According to Meg, who has been with MAP since 2011, these programs not only create a space for creative expression but also allow students to grow as individuals. “We provide a place where young people can be themselves, experiment with different characters, build their sense of self, strengthen their leadership skills, and discuss issues that are important to them,” she explains. Another important aspect of the program is the sense of community that students gain. “It really creates a family, and a lot of students tell me that MAP is their second home.”
Audiences will get the chance to see the students’ work firsthand with performances from November 30 to December 3 of Olneyville, the Operetta, a series of adventures and songs written by fifth and sixth graders and performed by local actors and musicians. “Together, they’ve written about the greatest challenges facing their neighborhood and what their dreams are for the future,” Meg says. MAP students will also perform in Trinity Rep’s A Christmas Carol this year on December 22 and 23.
“I am always so inspired by their plays and the brave choices their characters make – to take care of each other despite differences, to make friends with those in need, to make the world a better place,” Meg says. “We can all learn so much from their empathetic, creative problem-solving.”
Manton Avenue Project
55 Putnam Street • 331-7007