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2019/20 Student Matinees Showcase the Power of Representation

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A post-Student Matinee Q&A.

“If you don’t see yourself represented outside of yourself, you just feel f*cking invisible,” explains John Leguizamo in Latin History for Morons (onstage at the Ahmanson September 5 – October 20, 2019). Though we’ve never said it in quite this way ourselves, that’s one of the central values of Center Theatre Group’s Student Matinee Program, which brings thousands of students from across Southern California to our shows each year.

The 2019/2020 Student Matinee Season “is full of shows that demonstrate the power, for young people, of seeing people onstage who are like them,” said Center Theatre Group Director of Social Strategy, Impact and Innovation Leslie K. Johnson. “We hope this season will resonate deeply with the students of Los Angeles, and help them think about who they are.”

The Student Matinee experience includes a pre-show educator conference, resource materials for educators and students, in-school visits from our teaching artists, and a post-show Q&A with cast and creative team members. At the center of it all is the students’ experience at the theatre.

“We want to bring young people to shows where the content and theatrical styles are varied and sophisticated, and where they can hear stories that are deep and sometimes hard—and present rigorous ideas about the real world,” said Johnson.

The season kicks off on October 17, 2019 with Latin History for Morons—and John Leguizamo couldn’t be more excited to “smuggle information” to L.A. students. Plus, student audiences “dig the dancing more than anybody else, and they dig the jokes,” he said. “It’s so great to turn them on to theatre. They all leave going, ‘I didn’t know theatre could be so much fun, so relatable.’” That is key for local teens; over 70% of the students we serve in this program identify as Latinx.

Next up, on December 3 and 4, 2019, is August Wilson’s Jitney at the Taper. “As the Los Angeles home of the National August Wilson Monologue Competition, we have many students in our midst who are growing increasingly familiar with Wilson’s canon,” said Johnson. “Our youth understand, want, and need opportunities to explore Jitney’s themes of family, race, and changing communities.”

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake Student Matinee will be at the Ahmanson on December 12, 2019, making this the third season in a row we are teaming up with Bourne and New Adventures. “We’ve enjoyed a rich collaboration with Matthew Bourne and the dancers in his company, who go out into our schools to lead pre-show workshops before the performance,” said Johnson. “We’re also excited to be sharing a story that we hope will speak to our LGBTQ+ students.”

On February 11 and 12, 2020, we’re hosting two Student Matinee performances of at the Taper. “This is such an opportunity for us to partner with educators to create more ways for young people to see and study theatre and to think about the big ideas it presents. Experiencing and making art are essential ways that young people can express themselves and enter into the important civic discourse taking place in our country,” she said.

The final show of the season, on April 30, 2020 is Once on This Island at the Ahmanson. “It’s a beautiful celebration of life and love that also shares a message about connecting to our roots and figuring out where we belong,” said Johnson.

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