“The Writers Theatre Youth Council is an artistic leadership advisory board for high school students interested in a unique exposure to arts administration. As council members, we are able to gain an insider perspective on all of the different components that go into a theatre company. From hearing the unforgettable and inspiring wisdom of Michael Halberstam to getting an early showing of one of Alan Schmuckler‘s incredible songs, the Youth Council has given us a rare taste of an industry difficult to understand and tap into at our young age. We have gone to all the plays this season and been able to critically look at them from a new angle as we have met and learned from many of the people involved in each show. The Youth Council also provides us with an opportunity each month to spend time with thoughtful teenagers who are passionate about their future endeavors and are willing to maturely discuss whatever artistic or administrative topic that is thrown our way. The Youth Council is a diverse group and this experience has impacted us all in different ways. Because of this Council, I have now excitedly taught my previously oblivious friends about dramaturgy and why I think it would be the coolest career ever. Because of this council, some of us have had once in a lifetime experiences, like when Dee was able to fulfill her life’s dream of trying on a corset. Despite our varied experiences, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are incredibly thankful for this opportunity and we can not wait to see what the future holds for this council.”
–Introduction given at the WT Teen Soiree by Sarah Harris, graduate of Highland Park High
After the inaugural year of Writers Theatre’s Youth Council, it was time for a celebration. The WT Teen Soiree was intended to not only celebrate the Youth Council’s success, but to open the doors to any and all teens. The night began with Youth Council members convening to help set up and taking a moment to reflect on the year’s achievements; Director of Education Nicole Ripley said some words to recognize the many graduating seniors, all going to fantastic four-year universities. Susie McMonagle, Maria in Days Like Today, also stopped in to chat with the teens. The Council members then welcomed their friends and fellow teenagers in the lobby before watching a performance of Days Like Today. Sitting in the intimate house, it was inspiring to watch how engaged and excited the majority teenage audience was. Part of the Youth Council’s role is to spread enthusiasm and knowledge about theatre to their peers, which was especially evident in all of the positive energy coming from the teenage audience throughout the show.
After the show, teens flowed into the dining room at Tudor Court, excitedly talking about how much they had loved the performance. This VIP teens-only reception featured a string quartet, entirely played by teens and organized by Council member Ari Berman. A full spread of food generously donated by Whole Foods lined the tabletops. And, at one side of the room, teens gathered in front of the VIP photo drop to take pictures.
When actress Emily Berman, the lead in the show, and Writers Theatre Artistic Director Michael Halberstam joined the reception, the teens eagerly complimented their work and asked many questions. Midway through the reception we gathered for an artistic segment. Sarah Harris gave the introduction (above), and then Noor Qasim and Joe Agase, both graduates of New Trier High School, introduced Emily and Michael to begin a thoughtful artistic interview. The conversation ranged from the development of the show to advice for students wanting to pursue theatre in college, and everything in-between. It was a valuable and exciting opportunity for the students to have access to professionals at the top of their field speaking directly to them.
As someone who just a few years ago was a high school student passionate about theatre, it was inspiring to see the same excitement sparked and encouraged in so many young people. As Writers Theatre’s Youth Council goes into its second year, it will surely grow and continue to create young artistic leaders who inspire those around them to care about and become involved in theatre. What is more, it is energizing to witness a theatre create space for young people with a reception hosted by and created entirely for youth.
-by Maia Nowack, Artistic and Education intern