First Lady McCray Announces Program To Increase Theater Tickets Access to at risk Youth

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The Gracie Mansion Conservancy and MCC Theater have partnered during this 2017/18 season to increase access to arts and culture to at-risk youth. Gracie Mansion hosted the launch event on Wednesday, featuring a performance of selected scenes from the Off-Broadway production of Charm, followed by a youth-focused panel discussion.

The partnership was announced by New York City's First Lady Chirlane McCray and Gabrielle Fialkoff, senior advisor and director of the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships.

The partnership will provide 75 youths from across the City with tickets to attend productions in MCC’s 2017-18 season, along with pre- and post-show workshops with actors, designers, and other members of MCC’s creative team. This opportunity to participate in an entire season (rather than a “one-off” theatrical experience) will help young people access and understand the multitude of stories that can be told through theater, provide a safe space to discuss their life experiences, and foster exploration of career paths within one of the City’s touchstone industries, which contributes upwards of $12 billion to the economy of New York City and supports 87,000 jobs.

“I always say if I couldn’t write poetry, or dance or express myself through the arts as a teenager, I don’t know where I’d be. Art is therapeutic and healing – and it belongs to everyone," McCray said. "The Gracie Mansion Conservancy is proud to partner with MCC Theater in its commitment to bring the arts to our city’s most vulnerable youth and uplift voices that are far too often underrepresented in theater.”

Fialkoff said: “New York City is the world capital of art and culture but access to it remains out of reach for far too many young New Yorkers. We are thrilled to partner with MCC, one of New York City’s most storied theater companies, to help expose more young people to the world of theater, provide a safe space for them to discuss their life experiences, and enable them to explore career paths within one of the City’s key industries.”

LGBTQ youth comprise a large share of New York City’s most vulnerable population—New Yorkers ages 14 to 24 who are or have been involved in the shelter, justice or foster care systems. And they are far more likely than their peers to experience an array of social, physical and mental health challenges, with more than 20 percent more likely to experience dating violence and attempted suicide.

"Coming on the heels of the launch of the NYC Unity Project, an effort spearheaded by McCray to unite 16 city agencies across the City to make NYC the welcoming and affirming for LGBTQ youth, this partnership will engage and affirm the City’s most vulnerable youth, while advancing MCC’s mission to address important social issues through theater and reach underserved communities and Gracie Mansion Conservancy’s mandate to increase access to arts and culture for all New Yorkers," the partnership said in a statement.

The launch event brought together nearly 100 young LGBTQ New Yorkers and key stakeholders across the LGBTQ and arts/theater community to identify safe spaces, including the theater, for vulnerable LGBTQ youth to build community and learn about the services available to them. Attendees experienced an intimate performance of scenes from Charm, written by Philip Dawkins and inspired by transgender icon, Miss Gloria Allen.

In the play, Mama Darleena Andrews—a 67-year-old, Black, transgender woman—takes it upon herself to teach an etiquette class at Chicago’s LGBTQ community center, and discovers the idealistic teachings of Emily Post clash with the very real life challenges of identity, poverty and prejudice faced by her students. Inspired by the true story of Miss Gloria Allen and her work at Chicago’s Center on Halsted, Philip Dawkins' Charm asks how do we lift each other up when the world wants to tear us down?

The panel discussion following the performance explored these same themes, as well as strategies and tools to support LGBTQ youth. It included panelists from different walks of life, including activists, service providers, and cast members from Charm.


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