Mudlark Theater, an Evanston-based youth theater company, is pleased to announce that it has recently received two separate grants that will enable the theater to work with kids in the Latinx community to create theater performances based on their Latinx history and to help kids in District 65 use Latinx theater styles to explore social justice and antiracism.
The first grant, in the amount of $47,000, was awarded by Northwestern University’s Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations to fund a program where Mudlark will collaborate with two Northwestern theater professors, Myrna Garcia and Henry Godinez, to create an original bilingual work based on the Latinx community’s experiences that will then be presented to the public.
As part of the project, Mudlark will select a group of Latinx young people who will interview other members of Evanston’s Latinx population about their personal histories. The actors will then work with the two professors and their graduate students to help mold those community interviews into an original play that will be performed in the spring of 2023.
The entire process will serve as a model that other arts organizations around the country can use to develop more theater works that reflect the experiences of Latinx people in other communities.
“With this collaboration, we are laying the groundwork to create a living archive of Latinx histories that have traditionally been excluded from the western dramatic canon,” said Andrew Billiter, artistic director of Mudlark Theater. “This grant will help us to expand the perceived scope of history and offer local Latinx students, and their families, a way to both uphold their traditions and imagine the future.”
Details about when teens in Evanston, Skokie and other surrounding communities can audition to be part of this program will be announced in the coming months. Also, Mudlark will announce a date in the fall when members of the Latinx community can start sharing their stories with the actors.
The second grant, in the amount of $3,200, was awarded by Foundation65, a non-profit that provides grants for student programming that aims to eliminate educational disparities in District 65.
With this grant money, Mudlark plans to spend 12 weeks working with the third grade students at Washington Elementary School who are part of the school’s TWI dual-language program. In the first six weeks, Mudlark teaching artists will introduce students to the Latinx folklore traditions of North America and help the students create a shadow puppet performance, rendered in the style of different schools Latinx folk art.
In the following six weeks, the Mudlark teaching artists will introduce the students to a type of activist street theater called Theater of the Oppressed, which was developed by Brazilian theater practitioner Augusto Boal in the 1970s. The students will discuss their concerns about their local and school community and create a bilingual “street” performance that will encourage the audience to participate and become change agents to solve the problem. The performance will be shared either in the school’s hallways or with the public at Washington’s annual Independence Day Celebration.
“By teaching kids about this kind of theater, we hope to empower kids to see themselves as both artists and activists who can make a real difference in their community. It’s a great way of letting kids see how they can use their voice to do antiracist work,” said Nick Thornton, educational director at Mudlark.
Marcos Alcaine Soto, a third-grade teacher in Washington’s TWI program, said he thinks having the students learn more about this type of theater will help them become more socially conscious.
“My years of experience as an elementary school teacher in Evanston have taught me that… a few lessons during our social studies time are not enough to educate children on how to become socially conscious humans who are actively involved in their communities,” he said. “This project would be so impactful for our students. Every time we have implemented a project in our classrooms that allows students to go beyond the absorption of knowledge, we have seen students become not only more motivated thinkers, readers, and writers, but also more empowered and hopeful.”
Mudlark Theater collaborates with kids to tell youth-centered stories. By taking kids seriously as artists and individuals, we create space for transformative experiences accessible to all.
About the Mudlark leadership team:
Andrew Biliter (Artistic Director) has been Mudlark’s Artistic Director since 2009. With every play he writes, directs, edits, or produces, he aims to change the way people view and experience youth theater. Under Andrew’s leadership, Mudlark has focused on telling old stories in new ways, and new stories that only a youth company can tell. Maureen Powers (Executive Director) joined Mudlark in January 2020. Maureen is a visionary and leader with extensive experience directing local and international organizations focused on theater, women, and youth. She leads Mudlark in pursuing its mission through leadership development, capacity building, program development, financial management, and strategic vision of the organization.
For more information about Mudlark Theater, visit www.mudlarktheater.org.