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The 52nd Street Project (The Project) is dedicated to the creation and production of new plays for, and often by, kids between the ages of eight and seventeen who reside in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in New York City. The Project does this through a unique mentoring program that matches kids with professional (and volunteer!) theater artists.
The Project was founded in 1981 by actor/playwright and 1994 MacArthur Fellow Willie Reale in response to a deepening need to improve the quality of life for New York's inner-city children. Mr. Reale, an actor, playwright, and company member of the Ensemble Studio Theater (EST), used his company privileges to reach out to the children of the neighborhood by creating theatrical endeavors specifically for them. This was done with the cooperation and support of EST and its across-the-street-neighbor, the Police Athletic League's Duncan Center. The Project is now an independent not-for-profit organization and over its eighteen-year history has produced more than 500 plays involving over 600 children and theater artists. The Project is about making children proud of themselves. The Project is not about teaching children to act, although they will learn to. It is not about teaching them to write plays, although they will learn that as well. What it is about is giving a kid an experience of success. It is about giving a kid an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within that he or she alone possesses, something that cannot be taken away. For its first fifteen years, the Project relied on borrowed spaces in which to implement its programs. In 1996, the Project established The Clubhouse, a center where children can flourish in the heart of, but sheltered from, the tough neighborhood in which they live. The Clubhouse lounge, equipped with computers for kids' use, is a rare, quiet place for study and creative work. A kitchen makes it a warm and welcoming environment for kids after a hard day at school. The Clubhouse makes it possible for the Project to expand its operations and maintain a permanent and vital presence in the neighborhood.
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