To unleash the creative voices and unique potential of children from Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood by uniting them with professional artists to create original theater. Through playmaking, The Manton Avenue Project nurtures an expanding sense of possibility by building each child’s capacity for personal and academic success.
A founding principle of The Manton Avenue Project is the belief that all children are born with the right to be their very best, to do their very best and to achieve their maximum potential. It is lack of opportunity that can prevent this from happening. At a time in which public schools are experiencing the dissolution of arts programming from their curriculum, we are doing what we can to infuse the performing and literary arts into the lives of children during their formative years and to help them become tomorrow’s creative thinkers and community leaders.
MAP uses the creation of original theater, collaborating with professional artists, to help children find the value of their voice, to work hard to master the creation of the finished play and to reap the rewards of that hard work, namely the pride in their accomplishment and the applause of the audience. The children experience successes that can be transferred to other aspects of their lives and, by engaging the MAP Kids in our programming for multiple years, we regularly reinforce their belief in the capabilities of their imaginative voices.
What We Do
Since 2004 we have been working with the children of Olneyville, one of Providence’s lowest- income neighborhoods, and one most hard-hit by the subprime lending and foreclosure crisis. The Manton Avenue Project is modeled after the 52nd St. Project in New York City.
We teach under-resourced children the art of playwriting, starting in 3rd grade. We currently have five programs in place. In our programs, we lead out-of-school classes culminating in intensive playwriting weekends, when each child writes a brand new play based on a particular theme. Next, we professionally produce and perform the kids’ plays using adult theatre directors, actors and designers from Providence’s vibrant arts community.
All of the work we do partners children with adults in mentorship relationships, as the children are each assigned their very own dramaturgy mentor to help them develop their individual plays.
All of the work we do is free for the participating children and all of our shows are free to audiences.
All of the work that we do engages lower-income children during out-of-school time and enhances their learning (of writing, logic, theatre and English, and depending on the programmatic theme, of social studies and science) through playwriting. Through our afterschool and summer programming, we are encouraging kids to value their voices and instilling a strong sense of accomplishment that can be carried to other aspects of their lives.
MAP improves the quality of Olneyville kids’ lives in myriad ways, by providing a safe, fun place to go when not in school, offering a creative space where their ideas are respected and their success is expected.
By respecting kids’ ideas and presenting their plays to public audiences, we are helping kids believe in value of their voices, growing their resilience, strengthening their ability to navigate through life’s challenges, and increasing their chances for positive youth development that leads to long-term success in adulthood.
This is an exciting time of growth for our organization, having just moved into our very own space February 1st. The MAP Clubhouse comes to us rent-free, and beautifully renovated, from our friends at Olneyville Housing Corporation. The MAP Clubhouse will serve as our classroom, rehearsal studio, and office, and will allow us an even more visible and productive presence in Olneyville.
We currently have five pieces of programming in place, all beginning with weekly playwriting classes.
Playmaking is for first-time playwrights. After learning playwriting basics, each child is teamed with an adult director/dramaturge and two adult actors. At a special Playwriting Weekend, they write a short play specifically for their actors. The plays are performed for a weekend in a local Providence theater space. The shows are open to the general public and tickets are free.
Play-It-Again comes next. This time, in addition to teaming each with a dramaturge/director-and-two-actors trio, we ask the children to introduce a third, “cameo” character into each of the plays. A single adult actor plays all of the cameo roles.
For Wild Card!, two characters, pulled out of a hat, must appear in some permutation in each play, along with a third, “wild card” character of each playwright’s choosing. This requires the children to express their unique selves within slightly stricter parameters than usual.
In the Tag Team classroom the children brainstorm together as teams. At the Playwriting Weekend, they collaborate to write a full-length play. To keep things especially interesting, every time the scene changes, the actors playing the three characters change as well.
In our Dialogue program, each child partners with an adult actor. The two ultimately co-star in a play based on a storyline developed by the younger playwright that they write together. The added twist: neither knows which of them will be playing which character until after the play is completed!
Our Gala Events are held each June. We believe that everyone is a playwright at heart. If you have a story to tell, you have a play to write! With that in mind, each year we switch things up a bit for our Gala events and invite notable adults to join the MAP writing pool. Each write a tiny play (3-5 minutes) containing an even tinier song. We provide a top-notch composer, a superlative director and a dynamic acting duo of one fabulous MAP Kid and one professional adult. Four other plays are written by MAP Kids, acted by a trio of amazing adults, many of them well-known to local theater-goers. At the event itself, all playwrights, adult and child alike, take turns sitting at a special onstage Playwright’s Desk while his/her play is being performed.
Who we are
The Manton Avenue Project’s company of actors, designers, directors, dramaturges and classroom assistants come from a pool of incredibly talented volunteers who are involved in Providence’s lively performing arts community in many capacities, and work with other local groups like Elemental Theatre, Wilbury Group, Strange Attractor, Gamm Theatre, and Trinity Repertory, to name a few.If you are interested in finding out how to become a MAP volunteer, please contact Meg Sullivan at: email@example.com.
Meg Sullivan, Artistic Director
Meg received her MFA in Performance as Public Practice from the University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre and Dance in 2007, and is a company member of Austin-based RUDE MECHS (www.rudemechs.com), where she served as the co-director of their education program, GRRL ACTION (www.grrlaction.org), 2008-2010, advancing girls’ self-efficacy and resilience through original solo performance works. Meg originated the role of Annabellee in RUDE MECHS’ Western operetta I’ve Never Been So Happy, winner of the NEA’s Distinguished New Play Development Award, with music by Peter Stopschinski and book by Kirk Lynn. I’ve Never Been So Happy was presented at ARENA STAGE in Washington, DC in January 2011 as part of the #New Play Festival and by Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in LA in October 2011. Meg is also a dancer with The Meeting Point (chr. Julie Nathanielsz) whose Working the Line performance at the 2011 Fusebox Festival was awarded Best Short Work by the Austin Critics Circle.
As a community-engaged artist, Meg creates and performs multi-media performance works that explore issues of place, memory, history, and social justice. In December 2010, Meg completed a residency at the Contemporary Arts Center in Troy, NY (CAC - Woodside) and her newest work July Fly was presented as a part of Troy Night Out in November 2010. MegAnneMaud was created as part of her 2009 residency at CAC – Woodside and later presented as a Rude Fusion co-production at The Off Center in Austin. To correlate with Chat/piles, Meg was awarded an Oklahoma Arts Council grant to lead autobiographical writing workshops with high school students that culminated in a reading as part of the 2009 Tar Creek Conference. Meg has lead numerous autobiographical and devised performance workshops for teen girls, and served as director/creator of the Pioneer Valley Grrls Theatre Project, a program of Servicenet, and Grrl Action Boston, a Rude Mechs’ satellite project. Meg also taught autobiographical writing and performance for pre-teen girls in the Expressive Arts Therapy department at the Northeast Center for Youth and Families.
For Women and Their Work in Austin, Meg coordinated Learning Through the Arts, a professional development program that helped teachers integrate more arts-based lesson plans to core curriculum. Meg taught acting and theatre history at Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin, where she also served as a consultant and workshop facilitator for the Living Newspaper project of the Humanities Institute, and a guest curator, choreographer and director for the Harry Ransom Center.
After seven years in Texas, Meg is thrilled to once again call New England home. Email Meg at: Meg@mantonavenueproject.org.
Adrienne Adeyemi is an emerging photo-based artist and arts administrator, currently living and working in Providence, RI. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies and Studio Art in 2010 and received her Master’s degree in Public Administration in 2011, both from Clark University in Worcester, MA.
Her interest in community-based arts practice first began to take shape during her time at another local youth arts non-profit organization in Providence, New Urban Arts (www.newurbanarts.org), where she was first a high-school student exploring photography. She then served as a Volunteer, Intern, Interim Finance and Operations Manager, and Photography Artist Mentor. Prior to joining The Manton Avenue Project team in August of 2012, Adrienne worked at the Rhode Island School of Design as an Americorps*VISTA member, supporting the Public Engagement Network.
As The Manton Avenue Project grows and moves to the next important phase in its life, Adrienne is excited and passionate about doing whatever is necessary to support the organization in fulfilling its mission. And through that, she is proud and honored to contribute to her community in a such a deep and impactful way.
Board of Directors
Elizabeth Merritt, Esq. Chair
Kelly Seigh, Vice-Chair
Nicholas Veltri, Treasurer
Heather Florence, Secretary
Casey Seymour Kim
Joe Wilson, Jr.
MAP in the News
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