Creative Youth Theatre (CYT)

OLAS cast

Students from Crozier Middle School in Inglewood, CA performing in their original play “Our Lives Are Stories”

Creative Youth Theatre (CYT) educates Los Angeles based elementary and middle school aged youth through the exploration of classic story telling elements and the creation of original artistic works. Students are typically from underserved areas with low-income populations and limited accessibility to the arts. Students come from diverse ethnic backgrounds where over 90% are categorized as non-White, the largest percentage being African American and Hispanic (80% collectively).

The goal of CYT is to show how the arts positively influence children and increase awareness of the important role the arts play in a child’s development. CYT empowers young people to write, create and appear in their own original theatrical piece while cultivating an understanding of the valuable life skills inherent to the play-making process including teamwork, conflict resolution, public speaking, and responsibility. The program meets once a week for 12-16 weeks during the instructional school day or after-school. The curriculum is structured around the fundamentals of theatre, story creation, and behind-the-scenes elements of theatre.

CYT students are immersed in all aspects of theatre both on and off stage. Students explore their family backgrounds, daily struggles, inspirations, and the life challenges they face through the process of creating and performing an original theatrical piece. Instructors fully engage the participants with hands-on theatre exercises to cultivate these stories, creating lasting impressions as the students see how their own life connects to what they have created. Themes from previous performed plays include bullying, racism, violence, self-esteem, peer pressure, and depression. Participants also choose specific production roles each week and must accept the responsibility of setting goals and fulfilling their tasks in order to make their play a success.

The program culminates with a final performance of their original production. The life skills acquired through the program benefit not only the students, but also their families, schools and communities as these youth mature and become responsible, ethical and productive citizens.