In Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, just off of Tenth Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets, is The 52nd Street Project, an after-school arts education organization that teaches kids how to create new work for the theater. On Tuesday afternoons, they offer their Playmaking program for kids ages 9 and 10 to learn about creating characters, conflicts, and dramatizations. At the end of this eight-week program, each child pairs up with an adult dramaturge/director and two professional actors such as Frances McDormand, Mozhan Marnò, Jonathan Groff, Bobby Cannavale, Billy Crudup, Edie Falco, and Nancy Giles. The kids interview their actors then head off to a writing retreat to create an original work, which is then produced free of charge for the general public.
The 52nd Street Project has invited us to join them at their Five Angels Theater today to enjoy a few of the productions that the most recent Playmaking group is putting on. We’re excited for the opportunity to see the shows the children have created from their own imagination, which the adults have helped bring to life with sets, costumes, lighting, sound, and live music. Just as the show is about to begin, we notice the Playwright’s Desk on the corner of the stage. We learn that this is where each kid gets to sit while their show is being performed.
We thoroughly enjoy the first production, and applause erupts in the theater as the actors take their bows. They are then joined by the child, and they all take their bows together in what is truly a magical moment for everyone.
The Playmaking program is available for kids all the way through high school with additional opportunities for performing, writing, and technical design. The 52ndStreet Project tells us that alongside their theater programs, they offer academic and mentoring programs as well as an employment program for the teens.
As we wrap up our visit with The 52nd Street Project, we’re grateful for the opportunity to see these original productions by such a talented group of kids.