What Happens When You Put A Bunch Of Troubled Teens In The Same Acting Class?

Instead of juvie for troubled teens, how 'bout we try something that's actually holistic, kind of acts like therapy, and also pays the kids for their time. Sounds crazy, but this New York theater company figured out a way to make it work. Bravo!

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Male: I was in an altercation like, right out front of my school; a couple of kids calling me names and making me feel uncomfortable. I hit one of them in the face with a rock and cut his eye, and gave him a few stitches. He went to the hospital and then they pressed charges on me. I wish I could take it back. Actually, no, I don't wish I could take it back because what happens to me afterward is one of the best things that happens to me in my entire life. I am the prey climbing to survive the wild jungle, I am the pain you feel when you cant express yourself.

Judy Tate: I see kids whose confidence is built, whose ability to express themselves is better than when they came in, but what I'm there for in the room is to create a work of art. What you give also becomes what you get. I'm Judy Tate and I'm one of the artistic directors of the Stargate Theater Company.

I came from the south side of Chicago. They call it "Chiraq" now because it's a challenging place to live. My parents had a really solemn dedication to working in the community and working with people who were maybe not as fortunate as I was, but we always thought it was important to bring everybody along. One of the reasons I feel so dedicated to these young men is that maybe they come from areas that have been left behind.

Male: When I first came in I was shy. I just didn't feel comfortable. I felt out of my skin. Now I hear the bliss, the subtle things, and little signs that say it'll be OK and I was like, "Oh, this is awful! Why am I here? I'm not a talker but I need the money! So I might stay."

Judy Tate: We want to think about how you see your future.

If you've been arrested for the first time and you've done some time like our writers there's a lot going on with you. A lot of times they'll be wary of anyone who seems like an authority figure and they'll walk into this room and here I am putting them into this situation where I'm asking them to play.

Gradually, over the course of time, their shoulders start to go down and their backs start to straighten up and sometimes you start to see a smile where you might not have seen a smile before.

Male: Right before I felt their play I knew it was inside me. The first day where we started writing I had so much fun I wrote my feelings, my emotions, and like everything I wanted to write on that page. Instead of doing stupidity to express my emotions I get to sit down and write, but that's part of the city.

When we performed... oh my god, its like heroin and it's like the greatest drug ever. Even if people would have said, "Wow, you guys are awful." We would have just been like, "We did it and you didn't. You're just mad!" It was, I really... I really enjoyed performing. I loved it.

Judy Tate: I don't know whether these kids will ever take another acting class or if they'll ever take another writing class, but somewhere in their life they're going to have to talk about where they came from, what they want, and what they aspire to and that's the practice that they get in here. That's what we can do. that's what owning your language and owning your ideas can do.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Yet another awesome video by NationSwell. The Stargate Theatre Company takes court-involved youths in New York and gives them a second chance.

May 22, 2014

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