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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

3 Things Adults Should Know about Teenagers

by Zen Anton Paultre

Zen Anton Paultre is a senior company member at Downtown Art, where he has been an actor, playwright and musician for the past four years. He is a teen.

Zen Anton Pautre, left; Oscar Hallas, right
Perhaps the title to this piece should be called "3 Things Adults Should Know About Themselves?" For just as Darwin proved to us that we are descended from primates so must the adults of this generation recognize that they are descended from teenagers and understand the similarities between the so called "Old Folk" and "The Youth".

I'd like to first of all say that no, the basis of my argument is not the played out phrase "But don't you remember when you were that age?" That phrase is for the uninventive teenager to say when in trouble and the unoriginal adult to use as a defense when taking up the uninventive teenager's plight with the parents. Instead, the subjects I'd like to touch upon are such as music, deep inner emotions of the soul, and technology. Shall we begin?

Music. The thing that makes our pulse pound, makes our feet move, and sometimes even makes us start riots. Needless to say there's a lot of simply terrible music out there and the majority of today's youth eat it up, without thinking of the consequences, just like that chubby kid in Starbucks who thinks to him/herself "Oh, just having one caramel-mocha frappuccino won't kill me." Sure, once and a while it won't kill you, but eventually that arm fat will sag so low that people will wonder if indeed they are trying to grow wings and fly away. Just like the aforementioned chubby kid, all these young kids today are drinking down far too many doses of caramel-mocha-emotionless-bland-overly-produced-excuses-for-music-frappuccinos. As a member of "The Youth" I find it sad to see so many of my own kind wow'ed and impressed by the white noise they choose to sing along to and quote lyrics from with such strong conviction.

You may be wondering to your self something along the lines of "Well, even as this information is all completely accurate, what does it have to do with the similarities between Adults and Teenagers?" To answer your question, it has everything to do with the similarities. Have you not seen the amount of adults also singing along to the "popular" music of today? Singing along as if they connect to the lyrics that the musician didn't even write themselves? You see, adults and teenagers have an almost equal amount of tasteless music listeners. Adults and teenagers both have members of their societies who are trying desperately to connect to something.. To feel like part of a group… To try and maybe feel not so alone…. And so they take refuge in music. This is all well and good until it goes too far.

Categories such as Goth, Emo, and Hipster have often been associated with being a young person thing because we have all that "teenage angst" pent up inside of us. This is true for a lot of cases but just as many adults have that same angst and are Goth, Emo, and worst of all Hipsters. And just as many adults are still trying to find themselves and find where they fit into the world. Some even take trips to far away countries in hopes that a magical epiphany will hit them and explain the reason all their friends are moving on in life and why on earth they can't find a date who just so happens to be "the one."

Does that remind you of that time a friend of yours kept you up all night Facebook chatting about their Deep Inner Emotions and you nearly bit your computer out of sheer boredom? It sure does remind me of that time...

This in turn brings us to the last topic of today, Technology. It has long been the argument that one of the main differences between The Youth and the Old Folk are the gizmos and gadgets. This argument seems to steadily become less and less valid. I mean, sure, 75% of us teens are addicted to Facebook and texting but at least 50% percent of the adults in this world are also addicted to the same thing. Feeling the need to constantly update the world on every little minuscule thing they do in the day. Seriously, does anyone really care about you enough that they need to know you just bought some milk? It's a vice that everyone has fallen into.

In this day and age narcissism is at an all time high. Teenagers may be the ones who are more outwardly obnoxious with this vice, but it is safe to say that everyone has been affected. As much as it is painful to admit, you adult readers must recognize that teenagers are your not too distant cousins after all.

-Zen Anton Paultre

P.S. The use of big words throughout this blog was to not to be annoyingly pretentious but to prove that not all teens have lost their vocabulary from all the texting.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

3 Things I like about Writing - Oscar Hallas

Oscar Hallas is a DTA grad about to head off for Knox College. He wrote several plays as a teen, many of them in DTA's Writers Project.

1: I like the process of connecting the various related ideas I have in my mind. It's like inventing puzzle pieces to fit other puzzle pieces together.

2: I love the first laugh I get from an audience the first time I perform my writing.

3: I like the challenge of always being original. Even with an original story, it's dangerously easy to slip into territory (in terms of themes and ideas) which has already been explored too much.

Downtown Art is currently seeking teen writers and composers for this year's 'Writers Project'. Check it out at

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

3 Ways Downtown Art Could Change Your Life

by Michela Garabedian, company member

Downtown Art’s influence on my life has been far-reaching and incredibly positive.

1) DTA has provided me with a creative outlet that I could not have found anywhere else—throughout my time at this theatre company, I have worked on stage, backstage, and have even written a short play to be performed in front of a real audience. Having this outlet has given me a chance to express myself in a unique and fun way. It has also given me a lot of confidence in my own creative voice.

2) DTA has provided me with the friendships and tools I need to flourish in the world of high school and beyond. I have learned to collaborate well with teens from all different backgrounds. Not only have I gained leadership and teamwork skills through this collaboration, but I have also made some of the best friends I’ve had and probably will ever have. Working with so many talented, kind, and passionate people inspires me to transcend the barriers of what I can accomplish every day.

3) Lastly, DTA has provided me with a community for life. I never really knew what a community was until I became a part of DTA. Now I know that a community is a place where, as cheesy as it sounds, you are the best 'you' you can be. When I am a part of DTA, I feel like a better person. Being part of a community like Downtown Art is rare and life changing!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

3 Reasons I'm coming back to DTA

by Lena Feliciano Hansen (age 17)

1) A MOMENT TO BREATHE: Downtown Art, though a lot of work, is a place where I can put my stress from school and home aside. Here is where I can focus on something that I want to do and choose to put my time into. When I feel like I'm failing at everything else, I can come here and feel like I'm doing something right.

2) THE PEOPLE: I love everyone in DTA, I really do. It boosts me up to be around everyone. I trust everyone -- I don't have to worry about petty things that most people usually do when they're at school. We are all really supportive and we work to have everyone at their best. We are not about pulling people down and being on top. We truly work as a team.

3) TO ACT: I love to act! - and DTA has a great environment where I feel comfortable. I've grown a lot as a person, writer and actor here. Being on stage is my greatest fear, but it's also my greatest passion. I'm so thankful DTA's given me the chance to take on this paradox of mine and do what I love.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

3 Ways 'The Writer's Project' made a Difference to My Writing

Alyssa Burgos is 18 and has written three plays over the past three years which have been workshopped and given staged readings through Downtown Art's Writer's Project.

I know you guys have heard this kind of thing before, so I’m going to make this as original as possible and interesting as I can. Okay? Okay. Here we go.

1. For starters, one big difference 'The Writers Project' made is that I have actual completed scripts. I have written a lot as a kid .. basically my whole life. I could complete short stories - no problem. Scripts I couldn’t. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because when you don’t have a deadline to pressure you to finish something, and you don’t have a deadline so deadly that if you don’t finish by then you will die (I tend to be very dramatic - I apologize), and you’re a procrastinator ... stuff just doesn’t get done.

But now I have three complete scripts, thanks to the Writer’s Project. And I have the ability to give myself a mental deadline, because I know that if I don’t finish the script I’m starting the damn thing won’t write itself and an amazing earth shattering idea just goes to waste in a file drawer.

2. I found out in the Writers Project that I’m a good comedic writer. Like, I can actually be funny and sorta witty. Who knew? I sure as hell didn’t. Lovely self discovery. So, yes, that made a difference because now I’m writing comedies.

3. Last, but not least, the third difference the project made... Confidence. Yeah, how original. Basically, when it comes down to it, when you’re doing something and you want to be good at it, and you can be good at it, its confidence that will put it over the top. (When I say this don’t get too confident so that you think you’re better than everyone else, even if it is true. No one likes an overly confident person. I think they would rather have a humble person than an overly confident, arrogant one instead.) But seriously, I did get more confidence in my writing. Not overly confident, mind you. Just a bit more than I was before. I mean, I still get nervous when someone first reads my writing. My hand or knee might shake a little bit and I’m mentally going crazy trying to figure out what I can do better, but, hey, that’s normal. (I hope. Well, at least that’s normal for me. It’s my normal.) Now if someone asks me if I can write, I’m no longer like all shy and saying “Yeah.... I guess I can.” Now I’m like “Yupp! I can write. It’s what I want to do.”

Oh, one thing that hasn’t changed…I don’t edit! I get someone to do it for me. (Oh, yeah, I got it like that. Okay, not really. My sister likes to do it for me. No, really. She does.)

- Alyssa

For more info on opportunities for teen playwrights at Downtown Art, go to

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

3 New Things I want to Try This Season

Ryan Gilliam is the Artistic/Executive Director of Downtown Art.

In the coming season, I want to take on:

1. Bringing together teen writers and composers to create new music theater in the ‘Eastside Stories' project. I am really psyched about this.

2. Finding new ways to work with staging and sound in ‘The Bowery Wars, Part II’. We've broken ground with our ways of connecting street performance and music. What new variations are possible?

3. Using technology and social media to support our projects. We’re going to have an Ipad in rehearsals, our blog is gathering steam, our Twitter followers are growing, and we're building a new Wordpress site for our Festival. Possibilities abound.

Ryan Gilliam, Artistic/Executive Director


Monday, May 23, 2011

Sharing the Streets

People stopped, watching, puzzled. 'What's happening?' they asked each other, looking at the silent, bowler-hatted actors, dancing somehow in unison. Then they'd start to notice that all the silent actors and the watchers that surrounded them had earphones. For them, this wasn't a silent mystery. This was a story - and the key to enter was the tiny mp3 players in their hands.

Yesterday, on a cold cloudy Sunday, we finished a four week run of 'The Bowery Wars, Part 1.' After weeks of rehearsal and performance on the crowded LES streets and alleys, our company of young performers couldn't be thrown. On Saturday, it rained for 15 minutes - the audience all pulled out their umbrellas, but the company didn't blink. Their concentration in the face of all NY threw at them was fierce and unwavering. They had a job to do and they never let go of it.

Not in the face of a hundred obstacles: not in the packed density of a street festival, not when surrounded by a hundred Amish travellers, not in the face of a frightening bicycle accident, a giant poodle, a wedding celebration, or any of the hundreds of encounters they had with New York over the past two months. New York, was, in fact, part of their story. They displaced no one. Instead they collaborated with the life and people of the city in ways that impressed me deeply.

It's impossible to go through this creative process, which after all is inspired by the city, and not grow in appreciation for the abundance of life that crowds the streets. It was an experience we won't forget - to bring our story of the Bowery to mingle and merge with all the other stories the city gives birth to every moment of every day.