Imagination Stage Partners with Washington DC Police Foundation
In mid-July, teaching artists from Imagination Stage collaborated with the Washington D.C. Police Foundation to introduce five police officers and 25 D.C. students to the power of theatre and its expressive capabilities. Officers and students participated in a series of arts-based workshops— including improvisation, acting, poetry, and mural painting —that culminated in a final performance for family and friends at Ron Brown High School. The theme of the week was community. Imagination Stage teaching artists asked the participants to choose something they would like to change in their community and devise scenes based on the current situation and the desired change. Participants then developed the final performance through multiple writing prompts, improvisation, and editing.
Officers and students started each morning with an hour of improv to build confidence and explore basic acting skills. These improv workshops mostly consisted of short-form improv. Improv quickly became a favorite of the officers. The group also participated in visual art workshops, designing shields with their personal strengths written on the front, and collaborating on a mural divided into three sections symbolizing “me,” “my home,” and “my city.” The “my city” portion of the mural can be seen here.
The goal of the week was to help cultivate the students’ leadership skills and build relationships between teenagers and police officers. The arts gave the students and officers an opportunity to express themselves in a whole new way and build bridges to mutual understanding, especially as this was the first time many of the students and officers had performed in front of an audience. They depended on one another to deliver their lines, remember their blocking, and support each other as they shared their personal thoughts and words with an audience. Imagination Stage teaching artists Thony Mena, Alina Collins Maldonado, Doug Robinson, and Gary-Kayi Fletcher along with guest visual artist Cristina Cotte facilitated the workshops, allowing the officers and students to learn together on the same level. The students participated in hard conversations that they might normally feel excluded from, and the officers had an opportunity to see the students express themselves creatively.
Imagination Stage’s workshop with the students and officers was only one week within the Washington D.C. Police Foundation’s six-week program called “Students Taking an Alternate Route to Success” (STARS). The STARS program pairs teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 with officers from the Metropolitan Police Department. Rebecca Schwartz, Director of Marketing & Operations for the Washington D.C. Police Foundation stated, “[We are] excited to continue our partnership with Imagination Stage. The STARS youth and school resource officers passionately shared their stories and perspectives, creating both a moving and inspirational final performance that will be forever remembered by both the officers and the youth.”