Dance & Bmore announces its third season of Voices of Carmen, an innovative Musical production and job readiness program as a template to partner with any city Youth-Work program to provide employment and on-the-job training for youth 14-21 years old. Youth participants collaborate with local artists on Voices of Carmen, a Musical adaptation of the Opera Carmen focused on reducing violence among teens and intimate partner abuse while developing soft skills needed to obtain employment.
When it premiered in 2019, the Baltimore production of Voices of Carmen was selected to present at the DC Black Theater Festival, Kennedy Center Page to Stage Festival, and Atlanta Black Theater Festival. Now in 2021, the show is expanding as other cities seek to duplicate both the performance and the program which integrates Social Emotional Learning SEL with Job Readiness.
Like-minded community artists in upstate NY, Florida, and Texas are beginning collaboration with director CJay Philip to expand the Voices of Carmen program beyond Maryland. The program partners with Baltimore Youthworks to pay participants and provide Summer jobs with invaluable workforce training. The VOC creative team and youth council have developed a guide of best practices for other cities to adopt Dance & Bmore’s template for a more holistic approach to youth workforce development.
Social-Emotional Learning SEL is woven into the job experience through “Restorative Practices,” “Nonviolent Communication,” NVC, and small group discussions and workshops about emotional intelligence and healthy relationships. Participants also learn and use Liz Lerman’s “Critical Response Process” CRP as a feedback method to engage in rich dialogue with their audiences and each other. Post-show youth-led community conversations are a highlight of the program’s performances which provide resources for conflict resolution and awareness of intervention programs at the House of Ruth Maryland, recognized as one of the nation’s most comprehensive domestic violence centers.
Up to 40 Voices of Carmen cast and crew members receive professional development workshops in audition and interview training, financial literacy, and creative writing. In addition, the crew trains weekly in graphic design, video production, video editing, stage management, and costume design. Live-stream shows and weekly video recaps are planned and produced entirely by program participants. The Voices of Carmen program, AKA “Camp Carmen,” practices daily mindfulness and is rigorous, creative, and highly collaborative, allowing program participants to build their skills in a supportive and safe environment.
VOC program creator CJay Philip is an award-winning writer, director, and choreographer who relocated to Baltimore after a successful career on Broadway. A long-time teaching artist known as a teacher of teachers, CJay ran many art programs in NYC, including the Hope for Kids School of the Arts in Washington Heights in the early 2000s. “We had over 200 students and a volunteer staff of 40 that was very diverse”, says CJay, who was program director at the time. “That is where I first discovered I had a superpower of knowing how to help other teaching artists be effective even if I was not proficient in their art form.” This skill came in handy as part of a creative team developing Musical productions that toured underprivileged communities in Philadelphia. After mounting the annual productions, CJay’s job was to travel the country mentoring creative teams who wanted to mount the Philly production in Chicago, LA, and elsewhere.
Dance & Bmore has launched a similar mentorship program for Voices of Carmen to have “sister shows” in other cities. CJay and her team will work with creative teams to share a blueprint and guide that future productions can benefit from. “Voices of Carmen is not just a show, says Philip, “it’s an opportunity designed to expand the experiences, knowledge, and skills young people bring to the workforce and life. We recognize the value of social emotions as tools to navigate stress and build resilience; something we all needed this past year through the pandemic. I’m grateful to create space for young people to learn these things as they are just entering the workplace.”
Voices of Carmen blends Pop, Rap, and R&B with Opera and brings a contemporary spin to an iconic story filled with fresh yet familiar renditions of George Bizet’s compositions and a dozen original songs written and arranged by CJay and Winston Philip. The 2021 Cast album will be available on August 2. Outdoor performances will be held July 29, 6 PM at Eager Park in East Baltimore, August 3, 5:30 PM at the Ynot Lot on North Ave and Charles St, and a return to Eager Park August 5, 6 PM. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. Look for “Sister Shows” in other cities Fall 2021.
For more information, call Dance & Bmore 410 8718322 or visit the Dance & Bmore website at http://danceandbmore.com/projects/voicesofcarmen/.