The Odyssey House Theatre Project for adolescents in treatment will start a new season of performance, writing, and production skills training in early 2011, thanks to a $38,500 grant from the Elizabeth and Barets O. Benjamin Charitable Foundation. This is the third grant the Foundation has made to this innovative theatre project that teaches teens with substance abuse and related disorders how to express themselves through creative writing and performance.
The 2011 grant will support a three-month-long intensive writing and acting curriculum that culminates in the production of an original play written and performed by the teens for a professional stage. The program also includes field trips to expose the students to a variety of NYC live theatre productions, a series of summer workshops, and program evaluation.
This year’s 2010 Odyssey House Theatre Project participants wrote and performed an original play called “When you Shake the Tree,” which looked at what it means to be a teenager forced to grow up fast in a city where drugs, drink, and sex are all in the family. Broadway veteran Norm Lewis, who recently starred in the hit show “Sondheim on Sondheim,” is closely involved in the project as acting coach, spokesperson, and mentor. Norm calls the teens’ work “a surprisingly vibrant shake up of family life: the secrets, the hurts, and the healing.”
Odyssey House President Dr. Peter Provet emphasized this pioneering project would not be possible without the support of the Foundation’s Trustees. “Their commitment to providing underserved youth with creative outlets available to more affluent teens is increasingly rare in the nonprofit world. For our young people, who typically come from families and communities on the margins of society, the program offers significant benefits that carry over in their engagement in treatment and overall improved self-esteem. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Foundation for not only bringing this project to life, but for staying with it as it grows.”