CITY OF NEW BEDFORD, MA
New Bedford Studio Ensemble of the Oversoul Theater Collective, Inc.
Quality of Instruction and Participant Performance
The New Bedford Studio Ensemble (NBSE) of the Oversoul Theater Collective, Inc. conducts workshops, projects and performances taught and directed by professional theater and performance artists who are experienced in acting, directing, writing, spoken-word performance, dance, stage craft, theater production and arts education. Program participants receive professional training and are acquainted with the rules and regulations of Actor's Equity, the professional stage actor's union. To enhance the broadest possible participant experience, the NBSE is developing partnerships with theater companies outside of the City's immediate geographic area in order to expose its students to a wider variety of experiences and performances.
Program Design & Creative Content
The New Bedford Studio Ensemble (NBSE) is designed to provide its young participants with professional training in theater arts and practical, hands-on experience in acting, theater production, playwriting, television production, sound recording production, arts marketing and community service projects. Participating youth are active in a number of community service projects, such as: dramatic readings of folk-tales for elementary school children and senior citizens in public libraries and community centers; staged readings of short plays in community settings free to the public; and productions of plays, poetry readings for the community. NBSE members also participate in the production of a "CD" containing spoken-word performances of poetry and storytelling over jazz and African drumming. Participants meet twice weekly in two-hour sessions, from October through May.
Creativity of the Program's Approach Toward Engaging Youth Participants
The activities that NBSE members engage in are based on participant feedback, as well as surveys of members from its collaborative partners' youth programs. Programs incorporate many contemporary issues of interest to youth, such as rap, poetry, graffiti art and hip-hop dance. In addition to learning about the NBSE program through the local media and outreach activities at schools, many new members were once in the audience and became attracted to the program when they saw the variety of projects that their peers were engaged in -- the production of theater, television programs for public access, the production of CDs and literary publications. A local disc jockey visited each of the city's junior high schools to generate interest in NBSE's after-school program offerings.
Currently, the NBSE is the only not-for-profit agency providing theater arts raining and related services to New Bedford's youth and it has the distinction of being the only professional Black and Native American arts and education organization operating within the City of New Bedford.
A collaborative partner in this year's after-school program initiative offers counseling and anger management for students who need this assistance. In certain cases, participation in NBSE's activities is conditioned upon attendance in these alternative programs.
Professional theater arts training is built on an empirical developmental process. With its innovative curriculum, NBSE uses theater arts training as a tool to directly address and enhance youth's positive social and academic skill development necessary for a young person to develop into a productive adult. By participating in workshops and community service projects, young people develop written, oral and critical thinking skills that also elevate their self-esteem and self-image.
Evidence That the Program Is Making a Positive Impact
NBSE has been in operation since 1997 and 93% of its participants would be considered at-risk. By tracking the students who have gone through the program, approximately 68% have shown a full letter grade improvement in such subjects as English and Social Studies and their test taking skills have improved. Approximately 73% of the youth who have had disciplinary problems have also demonstrated improvement. 93% of the out-of-school youth who have participated have earned their GED's and entered college or professional training programs.
Description of the Role of the Mayor & City Government
NBSE receives funding from a City of New Bedford Schools & Community Program grant through the "Targeted Cities Initiative Partnership" that was initiated by the Mayor's office. The City continues to look at many different ways to address provide high quality programs that aid in the positive development of its youth and recognizes a need for creative programs like NBSE as a vital resource and support. Junior high program participants are eligible for membership in the Mayor's Junior Youth Council, an advisory board to the Mayor on issues of interest to the City's junior high-school age population.
Demonstration of Community-Wide Support
The NBSE has, and continues to, work in collaboration with several community organizations and agencies to further the development and quality of its youth programs. Collaborative efforts include: participant recruitment, resource development, participant transportation, program evaluation, resource-sharing and project co-sponsorship. Its collaborative partners include:
NBSE also sponsors a Community Advisory Committee, comprised of parents and residents of New Bedford who assist in the development and progression of the organization.
Description of Financing Mechanisms for the Program
The City of New Bedford committed $250,000 of tax-levied funds for after-school programs based on the positive youth development model. These funds have been complemented by a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Oversoul Theater Collective, Inc./NBSE is funded by a variety of sources.
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352