This week it is SOURCE WEEK at The Feronia Project! All week we will be giving you a glimpse into the shining jewel that is The SOURCE. The SOURCE creates innovative theatre, film and videos that directly respond to the needs of youth and young adults. Award-winning, innovative, and provocative, students, educators and administrators consistently evaluate The SOURCE as one of the most effective prevention programs in the nation. The actors in The SOURCE Theatre receive extensive training in theatre, film acting, life skills, and sexuality education in order to give back to the community and the nation by becoming a “source” of life-saving information to their peers.
Today, we’re sharing the powerful story of an alumnus of The SOURCE . . .
Flashback to ten years ago: I was a complicated, artistic, typically tortured teenage girl with no creative outlet residing in a suburb twenty minutes outside of Manhattan. My teenage angst skyrocketed when my parents made a rash and sudden decision: we were to migrate south to Sarasota, FL.
At the time, if someone had told me this move would be the best experience that ever happened to me, one that would shape the rest of my life, I would’ve rolled my eyes, tugged at my lip ring and bit back with one of those sarcastic sassy retorts that ever-so-easily roll off the tongues of misunderstood sixteen-year-old girls.
A family friend had heard about this incredible “program” Planned Parenthood created called “The SOURCE Teen Theatre.” Even though I wasn’t an extracurricular type of girl and knew nothing of this so-called SOURCE Teen Theatre, something inside me I didn’t quite understand (instinct, I later learned) willed me into checking it out. Alas, the too-cool punk rock chick who rejected everything found herself in The SOURCE black box theatre. I was immediately complimented on my black platform boots by a porcelain skinned seventeen-year-old ethereal-looking beauty with flame-red hair. She introduced me to KT Curran, the Director of The SOURCE, who exuded so much positive energy she almost appeared to be lit from within. Within minutes I was sitting on the floor in a circle with a group of thirty awesome teenagers made up of every style, ethnicity, identity, shape, and size I dreamed possible. Even I had to admit, this was cool. Even I, who had so artfully mastered the default pout couldn’t battle the urge to turn the corners of my lips upward. Was I smiling?
I was hooked. Every week I found myself counting down the days, hours-minutes-seconds- for Mondays to arrive. Those Monday SOURCE meetings were magic, we gained something that didn’t exist in the outside world but were able to take with us in our hearts after we left. We broke down the racial/social/economic barriers that divided us in the concrete school hallways, and in The SOURCE we became a collective, a family. KT creatively nurtured us, challenged our perspectives, and most importantly, created an environment in which we felt safe. One can only find their voice, identity, and purpose when one feels safe. For most of us, it was the first time we had experienced that kind of safety in our entire lives. A lot of us teenagers in SOURCE were creative, sensitive beings falling through the cracks in the pavement, until we found SOURCE. We now had that ever-so-important outlet artistic people need and rarely find. KT listened with a keen ear to our stories and, in turn, created powerful plays about the hardships we teenagers faced. No topic went unnoticed, no voice went unheard: teen pregnancy, bullying, HIV/AIDS, addiction, sexuality, gender pressures…The SOURCE Theatre covered it all. Teenagers in The SOURCE would perform these plays everywhere; public and private high schools, detention centers, churches, community groups, we would even travel in trains and planes and vans around the country (and sometimes outside the country) with our fearless leader KT there to guide and coach us. No matter the age, gender, or race of the viewer there was a pattern of similarity in their responses: “I felt like I was watching real life,” “I forgot I was even watching a play,” or “This has happened to me,” being some of the most popular. Hence our motto to this day: Real life. Real theatre.
I thrived in The SOURCE. I was empowered by using art as a way to save the lives of my peers. I, the girl who was never good at anything besides being detached and cool, became an actress and a role model.
In the ten years after I graduated high school and moved on from SOURCE, I became an international actress and model working in theatre, television, film, and print in Los Angeles, New York, and London. My experience in SOURCE had given me the confidence to fearlessly tackle my dreams, while still maintaining my integrity.
Pictured above: The SOURCE Production Team Photo by Barbara Banks
About a year ago I took on the position as Assistant Director of The SOURCE Theatre. It has been the greatest gift in my life. I’m now working with my best friend and mentor, KT Curran, directing teenagers in life-saving and honest performances, running my own SOURCE meetings, and listening to the sometimes heart-breaking stories of young people in our community. SOURCE has greatly expanded since I was a teenager; we win gold Addy Awards, are thriving on the film festival circuit with our short film “Boost”, and we’re completing the second series of our popular web-series “Freefall.” Still, the heart of SOURCE, the core of SOURCE has not changed. Our greatest desire over any award is to educate young people through the art of theatre and film. Every Monday a diverse group of (dare I say) awesome teenagers come together in a circle on the floor. We engage in the art of listening, acting, breaking down the walls that divide us, and most importantly, we all feel safe. The SOURCE meetings always start in a circle and it’s beautifully ironic because my life, too, has come full circle.
“Life beats down and crushes ours souls and theatre reminds us that we have one.” -Sanford Meisner