The Shop Floor Theatre Company (SFTC) takes up a small space on the Northbank Center’s second floor, yet it is making a huge impact on the lives of youth in Genesee and surrounding counties. The non-profit organization, affiliated with UM-Flint and led by Theatre faculty member Kendrick Jones, has a mission of “using the arts to engage community” and has been doing so since 2012.
This summer’s project is a seven week cross-cultural, youth driven, performing arts workshop called Tomorrow’s Answer. The workshop is open to students in Genesee and Shiawassee counties at no cost, thanks to scholarships provided by area sponsors. Executive Director Jones says this is to ensure accessibility to all students who want to participate. Transportation for students via bus to workshop sites and performance venues will also be provided at no charge. The workshop will culminate in two free public performances, one in each county.
Tomorrow’s Answer aims to allow youth from urban and rural environments to come together, discuss and express the issues they face in daily life, and learn about the similarities and differences created by their everyday surroundings.
“Bringing Genesee and Shiawassee youth together to explore, create and perform in an artistic manner is a great way to expose these young ones to the different cultural aspects of these communities and learn about one another in an uplifting and positive way. After all, many of these young ones will eventually meet on college campuses in our area. We hope this seven-week cross-cultural program will help to bring about understanding and build lasting relationships for all involved,” says Jones.
During the process, students and community members will learn techniques for encouraging dialogue on divisive issues and explore credible approaches and doable methods to produce positive social impacts.
In addition, students are able to learn transferable skill sets as they work on the production, including: conducting interviews, facilitating and participating in community dialogue sessions, creating scripts, writing lyrics, producing story boards, cinematography, building sets and props, and creating visual art and theatre and dance pieces for the project.
When asked why the Flint area is ideal for such a project, Jones says, “With the renewed commitment and the rebirth of the City of Flint, it is vital that we, as civic leaders, educators, parents, students, and community members, begin to think creatively about how we interact with one another, in an effort to create a culture of positive sustainable working relationships for the betterment of all.”
By allowing the students to drive the dialogue that will become the performances, Jones hopes to ensure that the topics are relevant and honest. He believes in the power the youth will find in having a voice on stage. He also discusses the need for positive stories to come out about Flint and surrounding areas. He says, “If we don’t tell our story, someone else will.”
Jones himself is a part of the Flint story. As the Executive Director of SFTC, he has a chance to give back to the community that he still calls home. Says Jones, “It’s my time to give back; it’s my turn.”
Tomorrow’s Answer is generously funded by the Cook Family Foundation and supported by the Ruth Mott Foundation. A total of 30 full scholarships will be given to Genesee and Shiawassee County teens, ages 15-18. The program will run July 6th-August 22nd. Downloadable applications are available at www.sftco.org – click Tomorrow’s Answer. Completed applications can be scanned and e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. For inquiries contact Shop Floor Theatre Company at 810.429.2252.
The Genesee County performance will be held on August 21st at 1:30pm at Randall Coates Auditorium: 1020 W. Coldwater Road, Flint, MI 48505.
The Shiawassee County performance will be held on August 22nd at 7pm at Owosso Community Players: 114 E Main St, Owosso, MI 48867.
Visit the Shop Floor Theatre Company website for more information and to learn about other programs.