Saturday December 2nd 2023

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Youth Performance Company


I first learned about the Youth Performance Company (YPC) after interviewing Sha’Vontie Rose Juneau Hosfield as the June 2022 alley’s spotlighted youth artist. This December I went to see Sha’Vontie in YPC’s The Velveteen Rabbit with my (adult) daughter. We both left the performance uplifted and happy. 

This was not the The Velveteen Rabbit old timers will remember from their youth. YPC’s version is clever, humorous, and much more entertaining. YPC’s new Artistic Director Maya Washington (an alum of YPC herself) wrote, directed and choreographed this modern adaptation. The cast was beautifully diverse in age, race, and gender. Sha’Vontie played the title role of the Velveteen Rabbit. She and all of the cast were terrific! The music by Kymani Kahlil, local composer and musician, was fabulous; and the choreography perfect. 

I think what impressed me the most though, was the Q & A after the performance. All the actors were poised, articulate, funny, and affectionate. It hit me how really valuable youth theater is – it doesn’t just teach acting skills, but builds those admirable qualities that will serve young people and the world throughout their lives, whatever roads they follow. The cast definitely showcased the company’s mission: Youth Performance Company empowers youth and inspires social change through BOLD theatre and media arts.

Youth Performance Company has a long history – starting in 1989 in a corner of an office at the Theatre in the Round on the West Bank of Minneapolis. They’ve amassed an impressive list of awards received over the years, both locally and internationally. The office and class location are now in Saint Paul, but performances are at the Conn Theatre, 1900 Nicollet Avenue, close to home here in Phillips! Tickets are very affordable. 

I had the opportunity to ask Sha’Vontie some questions about her experience with YPC:

How long have you been involved with YPC? Six years.

Tell me about some of the important lessons you have learned in YPC classes and workshops: I have learned that you can be yourself and I feel like YPC is a safe place to show your talent and your creativity.

What would you tell other young people about the benefits of YPC? I would say you don’t have to be afraid to put your dream in action, and I’ve learned so much fromYPC. I think they are a really good place to start your story. 

Tell us about the upcoming production Inspired by Claudette & Rosa: The story is about some high school students that are inspired by Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin, and they make a play about it. I think it will be a great play!

I also asked Sha’Vontie’s parents to share their thoughts about YPC: “We initially learned about YPC when we were looking for summer theater day camps. We chose YPC because they were close to home, more affordable than other options, and had the racial representation we were looking for.” And “Sha’Vontie has always loved singing and dancing, but since she has begun performing with YPC, we have seen her grow in her acting skills.… [and] demonstrate a high level of commitment and learn to prioritize as she adheres to a rigorous rehearsal schedule while balancing academics and other responsibilities.”The next production, Inspired by Claudette & Rosa, written by Laura Mann Hill, will be at The Conn Theatre February 10-26. Find the performance schedule and more information about YPC at Let’s fill the seats!

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