Helping Homeless Youth Achieve Success
BroadwaySF has long been known as the preeminent presenter of live theatrical entertainment in the Bay Area but many don’t know the important role the organization plays in the Mid-Market/Tenderloin neighborhood where the Orpheum and Golden Gate Theatres are located.
The theatres have been anchors of the neighborhood and have worked closely with multiple community partners to help them further their missions to improve the lives and the livelihood of the people and businesses in our surrounding area.
This past summer, Broadway SF, along with HAMILTON and other participating shows, developed a unique program with the Larkin Street Youth Services, the largest provider of services to homeless youth in the Bay Area.
The conceit was simple: to introduce Larkin Street’s clients to the entire breadth of career possibilities related to the arts. Many of the Larkin Street youth dream of playing a starring role in the arts onstage and the program was designed to further their dream while also helping them look beyond the narrow view of a career to discover all of the other fulfilling possibilities a career in theater might offer.
“I wanted to be an actor myself,” stated Scott Walton, BroadwaySF’s communications director who led the effort on behalf of the company. “I lucked out one day when a producer asked me to help them out in their office. The moment I stepped on the other side of the footlights, I saw that my focus had been too constricted and that I could have a meaningful career in theater. I’ve never looked back and that formed the basis for the work we did with the talented students at Larkin Street”.
The unique initiative between BroadwaySF and Larkin Street let students experience unique and exciting opportunities. They watched as HAMILTON’s Head Sound person Kevin McCoy explained the art of sound mixing. They toured the wardrobe shop with Jeff McGovney, who showed them the delicate and detailed work in some of HAMILTON’s most iconic costumes and the considerations a costume designer makes in order to ensure their wearability and durability. Daryl Terry showed them the work that goes into preparing the dozens of wigs used every night and how he and his team work to keep them in perfect shape, while Rachel Jouzapaitis talked about her journey from being an actress to running the follow-spot from the top corners of the Orpheum.
A highlight for the group was meeting Lily Ling, HAMILTON’s music director. Part of the student’s curriculum was to create their own performance piece and Ling worked with the students, coaching them on good performance techniques and working to build their confidence.
And they learned about the business of showbiz by meeting with staff from company management, stage management, production, advertising, ticketing, marketing, social media, publicity and theatre management.
The curricula focused on soft skills – those skills that are more inherent than learned. As many of these students will not go on to college, the program focused on helping these young people about the skills they already have and how they could apply them when seeking their careers. When asked during a session, what soft skills the student’s learned they already had, they used words like “strength”, “humility”, “perseverance”, “self-belief” “politeness”, “respect”, “friendliness” and “pride”.
The staff felt the same way. Regina Guggenheim, BroadwaySF’s vice president of production and theatre operations stated that “meeting these kids broadened my perspective of what it means to be homeless while studying and preparing for the future. These hard-working students are determined to better their situations and not let their current reality limit their vision of what they can do and where they can go. After watching several of them progress throughout the course, I know that for many, their dreams will become a reality.”