(Image from La MaMa Archives.)
Arts Connection NYC School Tour; La MaMa, 2002; New York Stage & Film Festival
conceived and directed by: Liz Swados
music director: Kris Kukul
assistant director: Nicole Newton
stage / tour manager: Sara Jane Baldwin
props and puppet design: Stefano Brancato
costumes: Whitney Pastorek and Stella Sensel
bass: Chris Downes
drums: Jerry Murphy
guitar: John Einstman
ensemble: Leila Ali, Barthelemy Astin, Travis Baird, Aaron Bogad, Brooke Cenicola, Bill DeMerritt, Mercedes Edwards, Tabitha Ferrer, Robbie Hetzron, Meredith Holzman, Chantel Jeudy, Rachel Kimsey, Stephen Mc Grath, K'Dee Miller, Nicole Newton, Tim Novikoff, Stella Sensel, Liz Taubaneck
"The Violence Project," a new musical conceived, composed and directed by Elizabeth Swados, performed by a youthful ensemble of 23, examines the epidemic of kids' violence in the U.S. Originally a schools project, it is being offered to a wider audience through this La MaMa production out of respect for the piece's deep message and the deep truthfulness of its young cast, who range in age from twelve to 25.
"The Violence Project" goes deeply into kids' violence, but it doesn't romanticize it or glorify it. The piece uses music, movement, singing and puppetry to talk about the roots of violence, the ultimate stupidity of violence and the uselessness of it. It is primarily interested in the precarious line between committing a violent act and holding back, asking, "Who are the people who cross the line to violence and who are the people who can control their impulses?" It also provides humor, making fun of violent types of people and dramatic forms that, for all intents and purposes, advertise violence as a product. Through laughter it presents some of the harshest facts. It also demonstrates that young people can use theater as a viable means of communication and entertainment. When it is performed in schools, workshops are provided for selected students that concentrate on the show's themes as well as the art of musical theater, and these students are encouraged to improvise with mentors from the young troupe.
The actors, who have all contributed material to the show, are Leila Ali, Bart Atsin, Travis Baird, Malcolm Barrett, Aaron Bogad, Matt Carwile, Brooke Cenicola, Bill DeMeritt, Mercedes Edwards, Tabitha Ferrer, Toure Harris, Robbie Hertzron, Meredith Holzman, Chantel Jeudy, Rachel Kimsey, Stephen McGrath, K'Dee Miller, Nicole Newton, Tim Novikoff, Vaughn Rush, Shana Starks, Stella Sensei, and Liz Taubeneck. Stage manager is Sara Baldwin; musical director is Kris Kukul.
The project was brought to audiences by ArtsConnection, with the help of the Surdna Foundation, Philip Morris Companies, Inc., The New York Times Company Foundation, Peter Lengyel, Horizons Theatre School and La MaMa E.T.C. This project was also supported, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Cultural Challenge Program.