These youth controlled the narrative and created their own play at summer camp
By Artemis Jones | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter
Liberty High School, Class of 2025
At the final showing of one of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company’s summer workshops, youth perform a play that covers issues they deem important.
“Teachers, I have an important announcement. A.L.I.C.E. I repeat A.L.I.C.E.,” announces a voice offstage.
Participants in one of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company's summer youth workshops. Photo courtesy Looking for Lilith Theatre Company.
“Were we supposed to have a drill today?” asks one student.
“What do we do?” asks another.
“My first thought was ‘Am I dead?” says a third. “And I was.”
This is a play written about school shootings by participants of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company’s GirlsSpeak workshop held at Highview Art Center this June.
The term A.L.I.C.E. used in this piece is one many students are familiar with. It stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. It's what someone will say over the speakers when there is an active shooter present in the school.
The youth in the company’s summer workshops created this with the help of Jill Marie Guelda. She is a staff member with Looking for Lilith, who led the workshop. It was one of four that Looking for Lilith held at Highview Arts Center in June and July for ages 5 to 14.
Jill Marie Guelda, a Looking for Lilith Theatre Company staff member who led summer workshops. Photo by Artemis Jones.
The workshop was a part of the HeARTS Initiative. It provides art experiences citywide that promote healing, community connection, coping, and more. The Fund for the Arts provided funding for the company to waive the usual fee of $225 and allow students to get a small stipend of $50 for their participation.
Youth in the workshops performed a variety of things. They created monologues, acted out scenes, designed sets, wrote scripts, and more. They did this all with the goal of examining world issues from the youth perspective. The students used theater to explore hard topics, among them climate change, school shootings, and social media. They used the workshop to spread awareness about concerns that many students have.
“Sometimes it's those conversations that you have in your kitchen after dinner [that] your children hear and internalize. It's creating their person,” said Guelda, describing the themes of the productions with the older youth.
The activities in the workshops are varied. Sometimes they involve creative writing to help young people open up.
“We do that in the form of letters,” Guelda said. “You can write a letter to yourself in 30 years, or you can write a letter from yourself from 30 years ago. What kind of questions would you ask yourself?”
Members of one of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company's summer youth workshops participating in an exercise. Photo courtesy Looking for Lilith Theatre Company.
She said even the five to seven-year-olds talked a lot about emotions and healthy emotions, such as anger.
“And when you’re angry, there are safe ways to get that emotion out, and that it's okay to be angry,” she said.
She added that these workshops give young people a way to express themselves which they need so desperately after the onset of the pandemic. It gives them an entry into the conversation many adults are having.
“I think it helped to build relationships with our community by inviting their children in,” Guelda said. “And because their children had such a great time, I mean, the feedback that we have gotten has been astounding.”
Artemis Jones, a junior at Liberty High School, participated in Arts Angle Vantage’s summer 2023 Community Arts Reporting Lab at Beechmont Community Center. The workshop was part of the citywide HeARTS Initiative supported by the Fund for the Arts and Metro Louisville Parks and Recreation.