New York City Teens Get a Second Chance Through Theater
By Susan Richardson, May 14 2014
This week, I’m excited to report on an uplifting and innovative program in New York City designed to give justice-involved teens a second chance. The program, Stargate Theatre Company, was recently featured on NationSwell.com, so we got in touch with its co-designer, Evan Elkin. Mr. Elkin has extensive experience in juvenile justice and previously served as the director of the Department of Planning and Government Innovation at the Vera Institute of Justice.
On the Stargate Theatre Company, Mr. Elkin writes:
With the rapid advancement of reforms in juvenile justice systems across the United States has come an expanded understanding of what court-involved young people need in order to succeed. Some have described the past decade of juvenile justice reform as a gradual “paradigm shift” away from a largely punitive philosophy to one that places greater emphasis on the innate ability of youth to turn their lives around with the help of their communities and families.
This emerging new sensibility which the researcher Jeffrey Butts has termed “positive youth justice” has challenged long held assumptions about the role of incarceration in changing behavior, about how resiliency and coping with chronic trauma must be considered, how privilege and access to opportunity fit into the picture.
The Stargate Theatre Company is an example of this new paradigm in action through a project I had the privilege of co-designing with NYC’s Manhattan Theatre Club. Stargate is simultaneously a paid job, a work readiness training, a literacy program, a therapeutic experience and, of course, a theatre program for court-involved youth. Stargate begins its second season this summer.
Watch the video from NationSwell.com for more on the Stargate Theatre Company: