Young Audiences New York partners with Charleston County School District to bring a Social Justice Professional Development Workshop to Charleston



New York, NY – September 10, 2015 – Young Audiences New York’s Literature to Life program has been asked by the Gaillard Center of Charleston, South Carolina to present a performance and professional development workshop based on Zora - the work of Zora Neale Hurston. This professional development workshop is focused on social justice and will be led by Young Audiences New York (YANY) staff members and teaching artists at the Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School in Charleston, South Carolina. Two hundred teachers from the Charleston County School District are invited to attend the workshop which will take place on Saturday, September 19, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Since the tragic shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church this past June, it is especially critical for teachers in the region to have support guiding student discussions on social justice issues, including civil rights and racial identity. "We are proud to be of service to the teachers--and ultimately students of Charleston through our Literature to Life program," stated Jennifer DiFiglia, Chief Program Officer for Young Audiences New York.

Young Audiences New York has designed this professional development workshop to support teachers to integrate the arts and social justice into their classrooms, as they learn to facilitate student discussions on racial identity- in the past, present and future. The day will begin with Charleston teachers experiencing a performance of Zora, from Young Audiences New York's Literature to Life repertoire. The performance is a theatrical depiction of the life and career of Zora Neale Hurston, told in the first-person.

Following the performance, Young Audiences New York will engage teachers in learning to use the performance as a springboard into student explorations of racial identity. The educators will walk away with a set of learning activities to help students think critically and independently, while making personal connections to the character and actions of Zora.

This workshop will kick off the Kennedy Center Partnership in Education’s commitment to the Charleston County School District to improve arts integrated activities and arts access throughout the district. The partnership includes the Charleston Symphony, the Charleston County School District, and Engaging Creative Minds (ECM). ECM will generously pay teacher stipends for the professional development workshop.

The Charleston teachers will begin integrating the arts into their lessons throughout the year and this initiative will culminate in a performance of Zora for the students at the Gaillard Center of Charleston in March 2016. 

The Literature to Life approach, initiated by The American Place Theatre and now part of Young Audiences New York, has benefitted over 500,000 young people nationally. Literature to Life turns the important works of contemporary American Literature into dramatic theater experiences for teens. The performances and post-show workshops invite youth to examine what it means to be a citizen, confronting current social issues of discrimination, racism, poverty and justice, and to explore the role of art in social change.

Wynn Handman, co-founder of The American Place Theatre is proud to carry the maverick artistic traditions forward for today's youth, so they can experience "voices worth hearing."  Handman observes that Zora Neale Hurston's work remains "among the most significant coming out of the African American experience. She drew deeply on her Southern roots and created unprecedented folklore....Zora's legacy and spirit remain and it is our pleasure to bring her to life for today's youth, as they explore identity in today's world."


About Young Audiences New York

For over 64 years, Young Audiences New York has been bringing innovative performances and other artistic experiences to children and youth who would not otherwise have access to the arts.  Every year, with an annual budget of just over $2 million, we are able to directly give over 50,000 young people the chance to experience and create art.

As pioneers in the arts education field in New York City, Young Audiences New York has a legacy of mobilizing, training and supporting New York City musicians, dancers, actors, vocalists, and visual artists to teach art to young people living in low-income communities. We aim to close the opportunity gap facing our young people through increased access and experiences in the Arts, and to empower youth to create action for positive change.


Press Contact:

Young Audiences New York
Jennifer Moore
T: 212.319.9269 Ext. 202, E:



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