Since moving to Portland in 1991, The Project has served young people in over 40 states with touring programs, and has partnered with schools, community art centers, and organizations including Young Audiences, The Portland Art Museum, and Oregon Zoo to create unique theatre education experiences. The Project facilitates productions, classes, and after-school programs at a variety of public and private schools through the Portland area.
Founded by Jeff Hall in Denver in 1987, The Young People’s Theatre Project has always had a central goal of finding unique and effective ways to introduce theatre artists and arts opportunities to young people. When Jeff began accepting opportunities to work with other organizations, The Project was put on hold. In 1991, however, he and his wife Koleen (and their 10-month-old daughter) made Portland their home, with the aim of reinventing ways The Project could fulfill its central mission.
Highlights from the last 18 years include FROM THE PAGE TO THE STAGE residencies in communities throughout the Northwest United States and Guam; FINDING THE TRAIL performances for nearly every elementary school in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington (celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Oregon Trail); WHERE IN THE ZOO IS CARMEN SANDIEGO? with Oregon Zoo; and the development of the FROM THE MAGIC PEN assembly programs, promoting creative writing and literacy to students from coast to coast across the US.
For a time, The Project conducted after-school and summer classes in a leased studio space. It quickly became apparent, however, that taking the artists to young people provided far greater opportunity than getting young people to come to the artists, and The Project’s sole focus on partnerships was born. By joining forces with public and private schools, parks and recreation programs, community arts centers, and a host of other organizations, The Project’s resources were soon in high demand.
In 1998, The Project partnered with Camp Caldera to provide theatre artists for a new program at Blue Lake near Sisters. The following year, The Young People’s Theatre Project Performing Arts Camp was begun, with 30 selected middle and high school students attending a two-week session at Caldera, and returning to Portland to join a Children’s Chorus, Junior Ensemble, and Tech Theatre crew to present the musical CHILDREN OF EDEN. This program represented a partnership with Caldera as well as Jesuit High School, where Jeff had become a part-time faculty member in 1991 (when Jeff was asked to increase his teaching load in 1992, he recommended that JHS hire Elaine Kloser — who was then touring with The Project — to share the Drama Director position).
The Performing Arts Camp quickly became The Project’s primary focus, and today draws far more interest than can be accommodated through existing programming. Children’s Chorus and Junior Ensemble sessions fill quickly, and more students audition for the overnight camp than can be invited to participate. The Project brings one of Caldera’s largest camper population to the facility (over 50), and participants come from throughout the region. The Senior Campers at Caldera typically represent 15-25 area schools. Several of these students meet weekly throughout the year as a part of The Project’s school-year Core Group.
For middle school students and educators, a second summer show has been added, specifically for 6th through 8th graders. Each August, a small group of middle school students produce a show designed especially for them, in a two-week daycamp format. Their production facilitates the creation of set pieces, props, and costumes, which are then made available to area middle school teachers, working to keep the arts alive for their students. Schools have the choice of renting the sets and costumes, hiring Project artists to help with their production, or contracting The Project to do the whole thing in their school with their students.
In the years ahead, The Project hopes to reintroduce a new generation of elementary school students and educators to its FROM THE MAGIC PEN assembly programs, with the inaugural production in the series of five, FROM THE MAGIC PEN: TALES OF HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN. The entire series of two-person, musical, audience-participation shows is centered on encouraging young people to discover the storyteller and writer within themselves, and each show comes complete with a host of activities for teachers to use in the classroom.
Since accessibility is a primary concern, new fundraising efforts have begun, and The Project is actively pursuing new funding sources as this exciting new phase of the company’s development is entered. Please join us as we continue our exciting journey of service to young people of all ages!