As the Student Ambassadors, participants, and Center Theatre Group staff prepared for their day at The Future of L.A., they stood in a circle, sharing their names, pronouns, and an adjective that started with the first letter in their name. “Amazing Alexis!” one participant shared, setting the tone for a day of fun and learning at Center Theatre Group.
Each year, the Education & Community Partnerships (ECP) department hosts a Student Ambassador program, in which high school students from around Los Angeles embark on a seven-month leadership program that is designed to transform passionate young individuals into leaders in the arts. Student Ambassadors use the programming on Center Theatre Group stages as a jumping off point for projects and workshops.
On Saturday, March 25th, the Student Ambassadors hosted a preshow event titled, The Future of L.A., which invited teenagers from all over Los Angeles to create art through music, poetry, collages, and photography inspired by Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.
Participants were divided into groups to take part in various workshops. Each station was designed by Student Ambassadors to explore L.A. through a different artistic lens, encouraging participants to express their perception of the city with art as the medium.
The workshops culminated with participants attending a performance of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 at the Mark Taper Forum, which explores the history of the L.A. Uprising of 1992 and the communities, relationships, and culture at the heart of the city.
At the photo collage station, led by Student Ambassadors Natalia and Melanie, participants were provided a map of Los Angeles County, alongside newspaper and magazine clippings, and told to locate their neighborhood on the map. Once located, they used their clippings to find a food item that best represented their neighborhood and used the remaining clippings to create a collage that represented their everyday life in their communities.
Through their work, Natalia hoped participants would learn about communities around Los Angeles other than their own. Melanie echoed this sentiment, sharing that her peers at school had no idea about the culture and significance of neighborhoods such as Little Toyko and Chinatown, which she found shocking. To cultivate learning and conversation, the two encouraged participants to share their collages at the end of the workshop and explain why they reminded them of home.
Student Ambassadors Jocelyn and Reese hoped to create a space that would allow participants to share their opinions and perspectives in their blackout poetry workshop. When Jocelyn was reading through excerpts from Twilight... she was excited to see a rich source material that would allow participants to tell their own stories from different points of views.
Participants were provided with an excerpt from Twilight... and black markers. “Blackout anything you don’t vibe with,” Jocelyn shared, as participants began to read the passage and cross out the words they didn’t personally resonate with. The excerpt, “The Table” was chosen for its fluidity, as the Student Ambassadors wanted participants to form a connection with the words in the passage.
“I hope this allows people to be more engaged with the community and embrace their personal identities,” Jocelyn shared. Through their art, participants were able to express their unique perspectives of Los Angeles and the community around them.
Through a music workshop, participants also had the opportunity to create poetry and visual art about music that resembled the different cultures, perspectives, and sounds of L.A in the 1990s. Another workshop asked participants to reflect on their “L.A. Angel,” the person or object that embodied Los Angeles to them, culminating in a printed photo that best represented that image.
Some attendees of the event felt excited and optimistic while creating their art pieces, with one teen sharing they felt a “warm [feeling] in their chest” from the conversations that surrounded the day. In an interview with the Student Ambassadors for social media, another participant shared he was astounded with the art and conversations happening around him. He found it thrilling that, “art and poetry can be whatever you make it, and it can be whatever you perceive it as.”
For Meighan La Rocca, the Future of L.A. event was important to the community because it explored everyone’s individual relationship with Los Angeles. She finds the Student Ambassador program to be empowering, as it gives the Ambassadors the opportunity to create an event from scratch. Nico Rosario shares she “loves watching the Ambassadors blossom into young leaders, full of confidence and pride at what they’ve accomplished and what they are capable of achieving.”
Through events like these, the Education & Community Partnerships department continues to invest in the youth of L.A. in hopes of a brighter future for all.
For more information regarding the Education & Community Partnerships department, visit CenterTheatreGroup.org/Programs or follow them on Instagram @ctgcommmunity
'Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992' runs at the Mark Taper Forum through April 9. For tickets, call (213) 628-2772 or visit centertheatregroup.org