Many of the 40 kids in Cleveland Public Theatre’s Student Theatre Enrichment Program had never been onstage until eight weeks of prep put them in front of audiences. The 22-year-old paid theater job-training program has played such a big role in the lives of kids from low income families that some such as Dezhanay Simmons, 20, have stayed since age 5. With a student-penned play inspired by Gilgamesh coming to Cleveland parks Aug. 2-12, Simmons, now a junior instructor, checks in.
Q: Is it cool seeing the kids learn how to act?
A: It’s more improvising. We work the show around the kids. And it pushes their boundaries, so they don’t be staying in their comfort zone. So they don’t be afraid to do anything crazy or goofy.
Q: How was it performing in I’ll Be There, a Brick City Theatre play about Tamir Rice?
A: It was good to get the word out. Some just heard it on the news — and that was it. But when they saw the show, they really felt all the emotion. And then it wasn’t just about Tamir but the cast members’ personal stories.
Q: Do you see yourself as a role model?
A: I try to get the kids to participate in the community. Most times people think where you’re from isn’t all that. I like how STEP shows this, proves it wrong. That we’re doing something great, something exceptional.