A.C.T. Teaching Artists Inspire Community

By Claire L. Wong 

“Theater is really about connection,” says A.C.T. Community Programs Manager Stephanie Wilborn. “We can’t do it alone.” For over a decade, Wilborn has been working with community arts organizations, using theater and social justice as a platform to give voice to those who are often overlooked or underrepresented onstage. Wilborn’s work with Larkin Street Youth Services is just one of the partnerships A.C.T. is building with nonprofits throughout the Bay Area, not just this holiday season but throughout the year. 

A.C.T. teaching artist Radhika Rao and A.C.T. Community Programs Manager Stephanie Wilborn speaking at Larkin Street Youth Services' 2019 Performing Arts Night. Photo by Dace James.

Larkin Street Youth Services is the largest provider of housing, healthcare, employment, and education services to young people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. This summer and fall, Wilborn and teaching artist Radhika Rao (who has worked as a teaching artist with A.C.T. for several seasons) taught an ensemble class at Larkin Street for transitional age youth, ages 18–24. The class fueled community creation and empowers students to share their stories.

“Stephanie and Radhika are wonderful and inspiring to work with,” says Larkin Street Academy Assistant Manager of Education Kiki Lipsett. “They are both so skilled in their craft and are very accessible and supportive educators. The classes they teach support our program goals of providing a safe and supportive space for creative expression and artistic development as well as connecting our students with local music and theater opportunities in San Francisco. We hope students finish the program with a clear educational path or internship in the arts.” 

Audience members at the Larkin Street Performing Arts Night at the Strand Theater. Photo by Dace James.

A few doors down from Larkin Street is 826 Valencia Tenderloin Center—another A.C.T. arts education partner—where A.C.T. teaching artist Andy Alabran has been working for four years. 826 Valencia supports under-served youth through the creative outlet of writing and providing positive mentorship. As a voice teacher, Alabran helps students prepare and record podcasts of their writing—such as talking about personal obstacles they face or an “I Am” poem.

“The individualized attention given to the students is invaluable,” says Alabran. “I see their confidence grow right in front of me. Sometimes when I’m working with students in the recording booth, I’ll make a suggestion and see it totally unlock something. They’ll open up just a little bit more. And then the whole podcast resonates with who they are as a person.”

The holiday season is a wonderful time to come together as a community and extend a hand to one another. Keep the Christmas spirit going with A Christmas Carol, which is onstage at the Geary now through December 24. Get your tickets here!

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