There’s a new theater company in town and Westphal’s own Nick Anselmo, Theatre Program Director, is bringing it to life. The Mantua Theater Project will be part of a summer program in conjunction with the Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative (PYSC), which is in a strategic partnership with Drexel University. The program, Mantua In Action, will implement, monitor, and evaluate the community-based summer outreach pilot program for fourth through eighth grade children who reside in Mantua. Nick will be providing the arts programming with a project called Playmaking.
Playmaking is a program developed by Daniel Judah Sklar based on his book Playmaking: Children Writing and Performing Their Own Plays and was the foundation for the 52nd Street Project in New York City. For over three years, Nick ran an authorized version of that program in Trenton out of the Passage Theater called the State Street Project and now, with the help of Drexel, he’s bringing it to the Mantua/Powelton neighborhoods.
The Mantua in Action summer program takes place over the course of four weeks, during which Nick will teach the basics of playwriting to about a dozen young people between the ages of eight and ten. After the four weeks, the students will be paired with a playwright for a retreat weekend. They work with the playwright one-on-one to create a short two-character play and, while there is a lot of writing involved, the weekend also includes time for fun activities. The weekend culminates with a performance of the student plays by professional actors working with practicing directors for friends, family, and members of the community. The process yields funny, creative, surprisingly truthful and often hilarious results. Along the way students develop self-esteem as they create something to be proud of. In addition to the professional theater artists from Philadelphia, Drexel students will help with various aspects of the program. Education and Screenwriting & Playwriting students will be involved in the classes and Theater students and alumni will help with the production. The tentative dates for the shows are August 10 and 11th at a location still to be determined.