The Viola Project wants the world to be filled with people working towards gender equality. We're devoted to our amazing students, but we also work with recent college grads to give them professional experience through an apprenticeship! We have offered teaching artist apprenticeships for the past five years, and this year we are offering our first ever arts administration apprenticeship!
Our apprentices are amazing humans and we want YOU to get to know them! Here's a little bit about the wonderful Shea Lee who will be joining us as a teaching artist apprentice this summer after graduating from Northwestern University!
TVP: What did you study in college?
Shea: I studied theatre in college, with concentrations in musical theatre and Theatre for Young Audiences. I also minored in Asian American Studies.
TVP: How did you become interested in The Viola Project?
Shea: I had never heard of The Viola Project until a member of the acting faculty at Northwestern sent out information about these apprenticeships. As soon as I read the mission statement, I knew this was a program in which I wanted to be involved.
TVP: What's you're favorite play or character and why?
Shea: My favorite play is Anon(ymous) by Naomi Iizuka. It's an adaptation of the Odyssey, centered around teenage refugees in the United States. I love it because its language and images are extremely beautiful, almost poetic. I also love that a character who was originally a king, a warrior, and a hero finding his way back to the home where he grew up, has been rewritten as an unknown, nameless teenager searching for home in a place far away from where he grew up. It takes on extra significance in light of the US's current attitude towards immigrants and refugees, and when I, a woman, played Anon this past fall, it upped that significance from a refugee story to a queer feminist refugee story.
TVP: Do you have any special skills that might come in handy this summer for useful and/or entertainment purposes?
Shea: I am trained in Commedia dell'Arte, a form of improvised comedy that uses masked stock characters and developed during the Italian Renaissance. It's a lot of fun, although the stock characters adhere somewhat to gender norms. So, using the form in a setting with all girls and women would prove to be an interesting experiment.
If you're a camper this summer with us, you might see Shea during Speak the Speech, Comedy Camp (Oak Park), Rebel Girls Fight Back (Edgewater) and Quality of Mercy.
We are so excited to bring our signature girl-powered Shakespeare program to the West Loop! We will be hosting a week of camp based on one of our most popular offerings, Warrior Queens! Campers will focus on the indomitable dames, often based on real-life leaders, who fight their way through Shakespeare’s works. Love the mad Queen Margaret? The French fighter Joan of Arc? The commanding Cleopatra? GRRL Power camp is for you:)
We'll be doing what we do best, just in a different location!
Can't wait to see you at the Station this August!
We were elated when our student Charlotte M. said she had an idea to bring The Viola Project down to her own neighborhood Hyde Park. (BTW, at 16 Charlotte isn't so "little" anymore, but she is definitely FIERCE!) We told her if she led the way, we would follow. So Charlotte set to work printing and posting flyers and getting us in touch with schools near by. What followed was our largest, most successful President's Day workshop ever. We sat down with Charlotte to find out a little more information about what inspired her to take on something like this, despite it being the middle of the school year!
TVP: What do you love about Viola Project?
Charlotte: I don't know where to start about what I love about Viola. Personally, it was the first theater camp that truly taught me how to act; I broke out of my shell there, and Viola's taught me so much about acting over the past five years. Concerning the community, I think Viola creates this beautiful environment for young women to grow in so many ways. Viola really blends social justice, acting, and literature in a way that's fun and interactive. Not to mention the opportunities it gives to girls whose families may not be able to afford summer camps. It gives me a lot of hope for the future to see great programs offer low cost workshops where girls can really excel.
TVP: What was your first Viola Project experience?
Charlotte: My first Viola Project experience was in the summer of 2013. I think it was called something like Food and Falstaff? Not sure, but I have a t-shirt from that summer still. Brings back good memories!
TVP: What made you want to bring The Viola Project to your community?
Charlotte: Seeing how Viola offered scholarships, I thought bringing Viola to a generally more diverse (ethnicity and income-level) part of Chicago would really put that offer to good use. I think that a program like The Viola Project should reach as far as it can and give every girl a chance to learn in a safe environment. I hope to see it expand even more in the future.
TVP: What were some challenges you faced with trying to get this program off the ground?
Charlotte: Working with Rebecca to make the Hyde Park workshop a reality was amazing. I have to give most of the credit to her, because while I had an idea, Rebecca was the one who really set up the location and organization. But if I had to pinpoint what was most difficult for me, I'd say advertising and balancing work for the program with school work. I've learned a lot about time management and organization from helping to set up this workshop. I was so pleasantly surprised to hear Hyde Park's workshop on President's Day was the largest, and I hope I can work with more events in that location soon.
TVP: Anything else you'd like to add?
Charlotte: What impressed me the most in this process was the hard work and cooperation of The Viola Project's management. I could never have made this real without Rebecca and all the other great women who run Viola. I literally just gave them an idea I felt really strongly about, and they said "Ok, let's find a way to make this happen together." That was such a refreshing and fulfilling answer after feeling like I had no way to make a difference for a long time. It was really a testament to Viola's mission to help women change the world, and I'm so grateful for all the help they gave me.
Thanks, thanks, and ever thanks, Charlotte!
We are so excited to return to Hayt Elementary for the second year in a row! We could not be here without the incredible support of the Hayt Elementary staff or the generous funding from DePaul University! Teacher Lexi Saunders is returning to Hayt and she is pretty excited about it! We sat down with her to get some insight into what her class will be working on this year...
TVP: Tell us a little about Hayt last year since it was your first time at that school.
Lexi: Hayt is honestly one of my favorite schools I have ever taught at. It's wonderfully inclusive and supportive, and our teachers and students are so excited about Viola Project! Last year we focused our 10 weeks on finding our voice and different ways to use it. The students were really curious about exploring the darker or trickier sides of their voices that they don't normally get to use. So we played a lot with darker characters like Iago, Tamora, Richard III, and Lady M, as well as other lighter characters who are tricksters or in disguise like Puck, Viola, and Rosalind.
TVP: What kinds of topics are you planning on covering in class?
Lexi: This year, we are focusing on "Activism, Advocacy, & Allyship". We'll be discussing what it really means to be a strong activist, advocate, and ally, especially as a young person of an underprivileged gender. We'll be writing sonnets on issues and causes they are passionate about, and working on scenes and monologues with characters who use their voices to speak up for themselves and others. And we'll have a ton of fun doing it!
TVP: What kinds of scenes are you interested in?
Lexi: Right now, I'm looking at scenes where a character really stands up for something, whether it be a cause, a belief, a loved one, a family member, a friend, or other. We may also include some scenes of people in power and how they wield it. I am currently considering Hermione and Paulina in Winter's Tale, Cassius and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Lady M in Macbeth, Cordelia in King Lear, Beatrice in Much Ado, and some others!
TVP: If you had some advice for a new student in this program who has never done Viola Project before, what would you say?
Lexi: I would tell them Viola Project is an awesomely welcoming and inclusive space to explore Shakespeare and make new friends! Our new students really loved it last year and we've got even more fun new stuff for this year!
"Since The Viola Project in-class workshops began, I have noticed that our scholars readily read aloud assignments and participate in and lead group discussions..."
Bringing high quality programs to schools means working with exceptional teachers and educators. This week we reached out to Gerald Chaney at the Young Women's Leadership Charter School to get his perspective on the power of The Viola Project in the classroom.
TVP: What made you interested in bringing The Viola Project into your classroom?
GC: I was interested in the Drama and Performing Arts class students being exposed to more acting activities and experiences that build their public speaking confidence.
TVP: How has The Viola Project supported the learning goals of your classroom?
GC: Since The Viola Project in-class workshops began, I have noticed that our scholars readily read-aloud assignments and participate in and lead group discussions.
TVP: What is the best thing about having The Viola Project at the Young Women's Leadership Charter School?
GC: Our Scholars enjoy every activity that Skyler, Evey, and Lexi lead. The students look forward to connecting/tying in The Viola Project themes, ideas, and weekly lessons into other content area lessons.
TVP: Anything else you'd like to add?
We are thankful to Gerald for introducing us to his 65 amazing students and to our incredible donors and as well as the Arbonne Foundation, without whom this collaboration would not be possible.
Here's to continued success!
PAST BLOG POSTS
Exciting news from The Viola Project!
For the last two years we have been bringing our signature girl powered Shakespeare programming to CPS schools... READ MORE
We are thrilled to announce the addition of Jasmine Henri Jordan to The Viola Project administrative team... READ MORE
As we approach our special Tempest workshop in partnership with City Lit, we invite all family and friends to join... READ MORE