As a writer who’s forever seeking inspiration, I’ve always found one thing to be the greatest motivator when it comes to getting something done: last-minute panic. Give me two months to write something and I’ll still write it the day before it’s due. There’s nothing like fear to get the creative juices flowing.
That’s not exactly the premise at the heart of VOICES, but it’s not too far off. The second-year high school theater program, which this year included Roaring Fork and Basalt high schools, tasked the teams of participating students with creating, choreographing, rehearsing and performing two original 30-minute shows of dance, theater, poetry and music, and they were given less than a month to pull it all together.
“We start with nothing,” said VOICES executive artistic director Renee Prince, “and in four weeks, we create an original one-act with the students. Our motto is: ‘Leap and build your wings in the air.’”
Working with a diverse group of artist mentors from around the world – a poet and musician from Ireland, a theater artist from Mexico City, a puppet-maker from Portland and a breakdancer from Albuquerque, among others – the students started their projects on Feb. 20 and had to “cross a lot of streams,” according to Prince, who likened the process to a big 14er hike in the way the terrain changes so much from the trailhead to the summit.
The BHS crew, working under Prince’s direction, created a show entitled “Loving Monsters,” and the team at RFHS, directed by Glenwood Springs actor and teacher Cassidy Willey, came up with a work called “Where We Are Whole Again.” Both teams will unveil their results this Friday and Saturday, March 16-17, at Carbondale’s Thunder River Theatre. There’ll be a 7:30 p.m. show on Friday and two shows on Saturday (3:30 and 7:30). Tickets are a suggested donation of $10.
The VOICES program, which started last year with just Basalt students, was born from a collaboration between Prince and VOICES founder and board president Barbara Reese, whose life was changed through finding poetry and who wanted to create an organization that would allow others to discover their own voices through poetry, dance, theater, music, painting and other art forms. The result is a program that helps students build confidence in themselves when they see that they really can create a show out of nothing, even though they’ve only got four weeks to do it.
“When I go to see (some of our students) in different events that VOICES isn’t hosting – for instance Aspen Words’ Youth Poetry Slam; some of our students from last year participated in that this year – it’s remarkable to see their strength on stage and their ability to stand in their center and really speak from a truthful, honest place,” said Prince. “That’s very rewarding for me to see those skills translating.”