Meet the Residents.
In August’s installment of his ongoing interview series with artists in the Residence@95 program, 95 Empire director Ric Royer talks with Meg Sullivan, artistic director of Manton Avenue Project. MAP brings their new show, My Blue Planet, to the Black Box for four shows on Aug 4 and 5!
Ric Royer: The show at 95 Empire is part of your DIALOGUE program. Can you explain a little bit about what that is and how it differs from some of the other programs at MAP?
Meg Sullivan: The Dialogue program is a little different in that the kids co-write and co-star in these plays, alongside their adult actor/director/dramaturg. The kid playwright comes up with two characters and a storyline- in this case having to do with the theme of the Ocean – and then works with their partner to co-write the script, each responsible for one side of the dialogue. And of course, this program differs because we take the kids on a three day rehearsal retreat and camping adventure up in the White Mountains at the awesome Camp Ogontz.
RR: Camping adventure? I wish all rehearsal processes included a camping adventure!
MS: Right, for many of the kids, this trip is their first time away from home and their first time camping, so it is a very special time for all of us!
RR: Can you talk a little bit about the kids, and especially the impact that MAP can have on a child?
MS: All of our kids come from Olneyville. We start working with them in 3rd grade and continue working with them each year for at least 5 years, so we really get to know each of them as individuals. We provide both a safe space for creative expression and a public space for real risk-taking, both of which really build confidence in the kids we work with. And when that confidence keeps building, there’s no telling what these kids will do! Our goal is to provide the supports and opportunities necessary for real positive development that will last into adulthood. And by professionally producing their plays, we hope that each child feels a great sense of accomplishment.
RR: And the work itself is always so accomplished, I mean, MAP shows are just always so good! In my experiences, when kids are provided resources and opportunities, but given a lot of room to express their creativity, it’s a pretty good formula for something pretty cool. Is there a MAP formula or philosophy behind the fun and creativty of the shows?
MS: Our philosophy is that kids have a lot of great stuff to say, that their words are worthwhile and valuable, and that so often their voices aren’t heard, especially on the public stage. I think many times it is easier for kids to talk about big issues and big ideas when they get to do it through creative fiction, even when those ideas or issues are close to home for them. We always tell the kids – no idea is a bad idea, so there is a sense of respect that underlies everything we do. Respect for themselves, respect for everyone’s creative ideas.
RR: And you’re going to have a new home soon, yes? What’s the word on your new digs?
MS: Well, we’re thrilled that we will be soon moving into our very own space – courtesy of Olneyville Housing Corporation. Renovations are underway at the new MAP Clubhouse, which will serve as our classroom, rehearsal, and office space. So we’ll still rely on our great community partners – like 95 Empire – for performances!
RR: Well, it’s such great work that you’re doing, and I was so happy when you approached 95 Empire. One last question: it seems like MAP is built upon a core of dedicated volunteers. How can people get involved? What does volunteering for MAP actually entail?
MS: Our volunteers are amazing. They give so much of themselves for our productions and classes. I am continuously floored by their dedication and generosity. And yes, we are always looking for more help. MAP relies on volunteers for propmaking, costume assistance, administrative tasks, marketing, as well as production and educational involvement. Potential volunteers should email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
“My Blue Planet” runs Saturday August 4 and Sunday August 5 in the Empire Black Box. It’s Free! But make sure to reserve your seats now for Manton Avenue Project at 95 Empire via this link: