SPECTRUM: A New Season!

Fall is finally here: time for cozy sweaters, apple picking, and pumpkin spice everything!

It is my favorite season for all of the above reasons, but this year there is even more cause for excitement! November marks the return of TheatreLAB and Richmond Triangle Players’ collaborative LGBTQ youth outreach program, SPECTRUM!

For those who are unaware, SPECTRUM is a youth outreach theatre residency where a group of LGBTQ-identified youth (and their straight allies!) will create an evening of theatre based on their own personal stories. Through a series of master classes and workshops, the participants will learn the basics of storytelling and performance, production and playwriting, and marketing as we collectively produce their original piece of theatre. It is basically the most wonderful time of the year. Joy!

Tracking back a bit: this summer, I was lucky enough to attend the Pride Youth Theater Alliance Conference in Lexington, KY with SPECTRUM’s creator and TheatreLAB's Artistic Director, Deejay Gray. In 2014, he attended the conference by himself and when he came back, he had such an amplified fire, passion, and awareness for the type of work we were doing with SPECTRUM, so I knew I wanted to see what I was missing.

Aside from the individual sessions and the forging of friendships [which are still so incredible – hi, friends! See you next year in Memphis!], the part of the conference with the most impact was meeting other programs just like ours. Being the only program of our kind in this area can feel like a lonely road. But seeing programs like True Colors at The Theater Offensive, I realized just how far this work can reach. How many lives can be changed. This realization was thrilling and terrifying and challenging and igniting. It was like saying “See! Look! It can be done! Now what are you going to do???” At the end of the weekend, I looked at Deejay and said “Let’s get started!”

So: here’s the start!

Since last session’s wildly successful program (and the sold out production of Let Her Liv*), and the PYTA Conference, we’ve had a lot of change!

First of all, thanks to the generous support of our donors, we’ve increased the residency from 8 weeks to 7 months! This will allow our ensemble to delve deeper into their stories, meet and learn from even more guest artists, and develop a stronger community, full of creativity and support!

Secondly, Deejay has passed the Program Director torch to none other than yours truly! I am not the only staff change, either. Joining the team is SPECTRUM’s new Production Manager, Lucian Restivo, and Mentors, Michael Todd and Mary Jane French.

The four of us will be the staff week in and week out with some of our favorite artists in RVA popping by to share their expertise. Together, we will assist the ensemble in their creation of short films, zines, the annual QueerBook [you know, like “yearbook” … we are excellent at puns!], and of course their performance piece.

Finally, SPECTRUM will be TOURING the final piece during Summer 2016! The theme of this year’s piece to be created by our 2015/2016 ensemble will be Open[ness] and all meanings of the word. The message, outreach, and conversations that follow will give the ensemble even more of an opportunity to share their stories in an effort to educate the community on LGBTQ issues, culture, and experiences. I’m looking forward to getting this soon-to-be-created masterpiece out to our audiences in RVA!

With so much awesomeness going on, I’m sure you are wondering: how do I get in on this magic?

If you are a rising freshman through exiting High School senior, you can apply to be a part of the ensemble! Applications are now available here and should you want to apply – or if you know a student who may be interested – please share this information! Applications are due by October 26th at 5pm.

See you on November 1st – get ready to create!

Chelsea Burke

-Chelsea Burke

SPECTRUM Program Director

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