Sharing the Magic of Theater with Homeless Youth.
In an innovative partnership, SHN helps young people at risk
This summer, SHN welcomes a very special group of people to its stages: young people experiencing homelessness who are interested in exploring careers in the arts.
In a series of seven workshops, young people from San Francisco’s Larkin Street Youth Services will learn all about the world of theater. In addition to gaining an insider’s view of a creative and in-demand field, as many as 12 participants between the ages of 18 and 24 will be encouraged to find meaningful ways to express themselves artistically.
“SHN is committed to supporting local nonprofits,” explains SHN’s CEO Greg Holland. “And Larkin Street Youth Services is right here in our backyard, between the Golden Gate and Orpheum theatres. So our new partnership with them not only makes our neighborhood stronger, it helps the next generation have a better understanding of what happens when you pull back the curtain and the types of opportunities that might be available to them.”
Larkin Street’s Learning Centers provide homeless youth with basic education and job-readiness training, as well as an introduction to a particular industry. Participants choose the field in which they want to develop skills—such as health care, technology or the arts—and then spend four months gaining hands-on experience.
SHN, as one of the partner organizations of this year’s arts-focused program and a donor to Larkin Street’s learning initiatives, will introduce young people to different lines of work available in the theater. These include behind-the-scenes jobs in marketing, operations and stage management; skilled trades such as stage lighting, sound and props; customer-facing jobs such as ushering, security and managing the box office; and onstage careers such as acting, singing and dancing. And with major Broadway shows like HAMILTON, ANASTASIA and THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG playing in SHN theaters over the coming months, the participating young people will have firsthand exposure to top-level productions and leading experts in their fields.
“The arts are a major part of Larkin’s programs, not only as a potential career path but also as a means of self-expression,” explains Education Liaison Specialist Kiki Lipsett, who is heading up Larkin Street’s newly revamped arts program. “Homeless youth often don’t have much that is stable in their lives, so being able to express themselves creatively can be super-empowering. And since SHN offers a wealth of knowledge about theater, we feel lucky to have this very welcome open door to a creative field.”
Founded in 1984, Larkin Street Youth Services is San Francisco’s largest nonprofit provider for homeless young people, serving nearly 2,500 youth each year. To help them get off the street and build their lives, Larkin Street provides housing, health and wellness support, and education and employment training. The organization takes a holistic approach to each individual client, helping prepare them for next steps, such as attending college or finding work.
Those students who participate in Larkin Street’s arts education programs also play leading roles in the organization’s Performing Arts Night, a popular community event where they can sing, act, dance, play music—in short, do all the things they’ll learn about in their workshops with SHN.
“Creativity is an important way to help young people heal from the trauma of homelessness,” says Sherilyn Adams, Larkin Street’s executive director. “And SHN is giving them the opportunity to pursue that through theater. We want to give a big shout-out to SHN for being such an extraordinary community partner.”