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First Generation is an intensive, arts and youth leadership program in Springfield, Massachusetts that creates opportunities for young people to claim a public voice in their community, and beyond.
First Generation brings together youth ages 15-22 for research, self-reflection, artistic training, and dialogue. Forming an artistic ensemble, the group creates multi-lingual performances based on their discoveries. First Generation members may be the first in their family to grow up in the United States, the first to speak English, to graduate high school, go to college, or many other firsts. Participants and performances are multi-lingual and include youth who are court-involved. Community elders participate in our creative process by sharing their intergenerational experiences and perspectives.
The mission of the Performance Project is to create theater about oppression and liberation. Through our multi-generational collaborations we examine the effects of racism, economic oppression, bigotry, and violence, and create compelling works of theater, movement, and spoken-word. The Performance Project offers a safe space for members to voice experiences, ideas and beliefs, claim a public voice, and engage audiences in dialogue about critical social and cultural issues. The Performance Project is committed to the enrichment and empowerment of our membership, many of whom have been incarcerated, so that we may all know our value as individuals and as part of a larger community.
The Performance Project began in the Hampshire Jail in Northampton, Massachusetts September 2000. It began as a collaboration between two artists and eight men incarcerated at the jail. Since 2000, we have produced seven original plays, led theater workshops and performances at youth facilities and for women at the Hampden Jail, and established the Performance Company, an artistic ensemble that creates and performs outside of jail settings. Our plays have been performed in colleges and theaters in Western Massachusetts, at the Revolutions International Theater Festival in Albuquerque, NM, and we have presented our work in Boston and California. The Performance Project's productions serve as an important platform for dialogue about critical social and cultural issues between individuals who have been incarcerated and members of the larger community. Our Current Focus: The First Generation Project First Generation is an intensive arts-based, community building, and leadership development program for first generation youth in Springfield. It provides a platform for youth to have a public voice in their community and beyond. Beginning in September 2008 a group of 12 youth in Springfield, ages 15-22, who self-identify as "first generation" will come together for a year-long process of research, self-reflection, artistic training, and dialogue to create a full-length multi-lingual performance about the experience of being First Generation. First Generation participants will primarily represent youth who are first generation immigrants to the United States, but may also include youth who define themselves as first generation because they have shifted from their family culture of heterosexuality, religious affiliation, educational values, and/or economic ethics. The First Generation project is built on the premise that the cultural legacies and family histories of first generation youth are foundational sources of strength that have the possibility to shape individual identities. The program's focus on creating a multi-lingual, multi-cultural performance invites First Generation participants to embrace their individual complexities within their family and community cultures and provide a platform for youth to have a public voice within the community. Ensemble members and audiences will participate in a public dialogue about how systemic oppression can sometimes sever youth from their cultural origins.
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