LEAP Helps Youth in Schools Through Theater

Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Michael Perreca, the Artistic Director of Theater Programs at Learning Through an Expanded Arts Program, or LEAP, and discusses two high profile theater programs serving youth in schools throughout New York City.

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"It's a very big responsibility to be in this program. To be able to really memorize and connect with a character, that takes a lot of practice, and a lot of time. I came from another country so it's a difficult journey. Everyday, you know, reading about it, and trying to understand him more. And understand that character and how to portray him. Our instructor... He really took me through it, and he pushed me to, like, my emotional limit. One time, actually, I was performing it, and I cried. [laughter] And I walked out. There was a lot of tears in my class. It wasn't tears of, like, anger. It was tears of joy. For, like, relief and finally doing something that I thought I couldn't do. That's a program called LeAp, and Michael Perreca is the Artistic Director of Theater Programs. LeAp stand for? Learning through an Expanded Arts Program. Describe it. Well Learning through an Expanded Arts Program, or LeAp, has been around for 39 years, and we have programs in 160 to 200 schools throughout New York City. I'm the Artistic Director of the Theater Programs. So we have a performance based program called the August Wilson Program, where kids are immersed in the work, the astounding work, of August Wilson, playwright. And then LEAP OnStage, which is a playwriting program, where ten schools are involved in immersing themselves in the playwriting process. A winner from each one of those schools gets published by Samuel French, and performed Off-Broadway. So the August Wilson Monologue Competition culminates on Broadway, Leap OnStage culminates Off-Broadway. And it's students' work. It's pretty amazing. What does it do for these young people? Well, the Monologue Competition really enhances public speaking confidence, you saw... he was talking about English language learners, students where English wasn't even their first language, and they're interpreting these August Wilson characters. Wow. It's amazing. They're embodying these remarkable, beautifully written, deep characters. Give us a... sorry for interrupting, give us a couple of examples for those who don't know the great work of the great August Wilson. Give us a couple examples. Oh this is a great year for August Wilson. Because... I'd say so. [laughter] Fences is nominated for an Academy Award this year, Viola Davis won an Academy Award. Oh did she make a speech? [laughter] I'm sorry! [laughter] She made the speech of the year. She sure did. And it was really remarkable. So August Wilson's ten plays reflect the African American experience in the decades from 1900 to 1999. Hmm. So Fences is one of those plays. It became a feature film. And then on Broadway we had a really successful revival of Jitney. And so... We had the folks..."