88Nine Radio Milwaukee

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“Safe Streets, Healthy Kids”: First Stage Summer Theater Academy’s Beginning of Day

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Listen: For our final theme of this year’s Safe Streets, Healthy Kids project, we focus on self-expression — a thread that’s been an implicit constant throughout the entire campaign. We’ve heard from a kaleidoscope of young people all summer, and for me at least, listening to these bright young voices has been a refreshing and energizing. And what better place to begin a week focusing on self-expression than the First Stage Summer Theater Academy?

Having grown up in Milwaukee, I’ve always known the name First Stage and even had a chance to see some of their work over the years. However, I’ve never been on the other side of the curtain. Last week, I was lucky enough to check out their space in the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center and spend a morning with their wonderful students at the Summer Theater Academy. As soon as I walked through the door, I was hit by a buzz of chatter and laughter and excitement — I could tell I was going to like this one. And to begin their day every morning, they gather together in a big room for their appropriately named “Beginning of Day,” which I was fortunate enough to witness with a microphone on hand:

To capture the audio for this piece, I experimented with something I’ve never tried before — outsourcing. One of the young theater techs was hanging around before the assembly started, and because he was more familiar with the lay of the land, we asked him if he’d scramble around during Beginning of Day and get the microphone as close to the action as possible. As I would have expected from a First Stage student, he did a phenomenal job.

Out takes! I did my best to translate just how intimate and motivating Beginning of Day felt to me as I observed, but it may be one of those events you need to be part of to fully understand. However, this uncut and amazing piece of audio from headmaster John Maclay addressing the students might bring you further inside:

Another piece of tape I loved — during announcements, if a student’s birthday is mentioned, the students spontaneously break into this song:

 

To learn more about First Stage, check out their website. And unfortunately, their Summer Theater Academy has ended, but that makes way to its school-year relative — the First Stage Theater Academy. Learn more about it here!

Produced by: Adam Carr