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Press Release

Meet the 2023 New Voices: Detroit Finalists

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Nahla Knight
New Voices Detroit Youth Playwright

Nahla Knight is a student at Fraser High School with an interest in all aspects of theatre (including dance, production, and writing). Nahla has completed the Silver Award in Girl Scouts and is an award-winning dancer currently working on a self-made routine.

Jaidyn Ray
New Voices Detroit Youth Composer

Jaidyn Ray is a young artist who has a passion for songwriting and writing. Jaidyn looks forward to the opportunity to hear their original songs performed live and would like to explore the possibly of becoming a singer themselves.

Brianna Couch
New Voices Detroit Youth Composer

Brianna Couch aka BRIIENICOLE is an award-winning songwriter from the Detroit School of Arts. Brianna was accepted into Berklee College of Music’s “Black, Brown, and Bound” program and is working on a premiere EP titled Emotional Intelligence. Brianna has released two singles that are available on all streaming platforms.

Jadyn North
New Voices Detroit Youth Composer

Jadyn North is a student at Cass Tech with hopes to make it to Broadway someday. If not Broadway, Jadyn hopes to apply the skills that were acquired through New Voices to thrive at a career in music production.

Sherida Henneghan
New Voices Detroit Youth Playwright

Sherida Henneghan is a prolific writer with an entrepreneurial spirit. As a student at Denby High School, Sherida has written three plays and more than 60 poems. Through New Voices, Sherida will work on skills in writing and acting, with a career goal of becoming the next Tyler Perry!

Priscilla Massey
New Voices Detroit Youth Playwright

Prescilla Masset is a writer who is interested in developing confidence and comfortability with the craft. In New Voices, Prescilla hopes to expand beyond writing and work on skills in acting and producing as well. Additionally, Prescilla was recently featured on a podcast and won a city-wide honor.

Simone Thompson
New Voices Detroit Youth Playwright

Simone Thompson is a songwriter, poet, and book author. Simone is currently focused on writing improvement, time management, and bringing words to life.

Justin Cameron Washington
New Voices Detroit Youth Playwright

Justin Washington is a student at Rochester High School who has won multiple awards for playwriting. Justin’s award-winning play No Prospering Weapons will premiere at The Kennedy Center this fall. Justin was also the winner of the 2022 New Voices Audience Choice Award.

Reagan Stroud
New Voices Detroit Youth Playwright

Reagan Stroud is a student at Detroit School of Arts with interests in writing, acting, and producing. Reagan has two book projects out titled “Hall of Fame,” and “The Girl Who Shared the World.” Through New Voices, Reagan is hoping to grow as a writer and begin a journey into acting.

Nicholas Smith
New Voices Detroit Youth Composer

Nick Smith is a student at MLK Jr. Senior High School in Detroit who is interested in producing music (and has already released 5 solo projects and 7 collaborative mixtapes). In addition to producing, Nick also has a passion for rapping.

Demi Ruffin
New Voices Detroit Youth Composer

Demi Ruffin is an incoming freshman at Howard University with an interest in music composition. Demi aspires to be an Orthopedic Surgeon and played on the 2022 Detroit Public School League championship team in Volleyball for Detroit Renaissance.

The Lewis Prize for Music and Accelerator Awardees Present “Accelerating Change: Creative Youth Development Across the United States” Video Series

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The Lewis Prize for Music in partnership with Accelerator Awardees, Hyde Square Task Force, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, Beyond the Bars, and Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective is proud to launch the 2023 video series “Accelerating Change: Creative Youth Development Across the United States” to shine a light on the vital work of Creative Youth Development (CYD) organizations in their local communities. CYD represents longstanding practices of empowering young people as thriving leaders in communities across the country.

Four award-winning organizations have created their own unique videos that showcase the experiences of young people in Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Saint Louis. Through these films, we have a chance to hear directly from the young people themselves, as well as the supportive adults in their lives, about how music and community have transformed their lives.

These newly released videos are a continuation of the Accelerating Change collection, which was first launched in 2021. Watch and witness firsthand the remarkable impact of Creative Youth Development in the Accelerating Change 2023 Video Series!

Detroit-Area Youth Write Their Own Future

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The 4th Annual New Voices: Detroit Festival on August 12 Showcases 
Short Plays and Songs from Next Generation Storytellers in 8th through 12th Grade

Detroit – Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit proudly presents the 4th Annual New Voices: Detroit Festival on August 12. This exciting event features original plays and compositions written by talented Detroit-area teens in grades 8-12.

Paired with industry professionals, young artists hone their skills, creating new works that will be showcased at prominent Detroit arts & culture venues. This year, Mosaic collaborates with Detroit Public Theatre to host the festival, scheduled for August 12 at 6pm.

“New Voices: Detroit goes beyond supporting young talents; it inspires the community and fosters vital conversations,” said DeLashea Strawder, Executive and Artistic Director of Mosaic. Participants develop artistic and life skills, enriching their communities with relevant arts experiences. The festival also plays a pivotal role in expanding diverse next-generation playwrights and composers for all audiences.

Metro-Detroit youth submitted their ideas this spring for a chance to join the paid summer intensive. Finalists, chosen earlier this summer, have worked diligently with coaches throughout July, fine-tuning their work before the August 12 premiere.

A video featuring last year’s New Voices finalists can be found on YouTube. For tickets and additional details on Mosaic’s New Voices: Detroit Festival visit www.mosaicdetroit.org.

Talented Detroit Youth Play, Perform and Thrive at Mosaic’s Summer Camp

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Detroit – Summer is the perfect time to sharpen your musical theatre, acting, and dance skills if you’re lucky enough to secure a spot at Mosaic Summer Camp. Each summer, the Detroit-based youth development organization, Mosaic, welcomes kids from 3rd to 8th grade for two-week-long summer camp sessions, with each session ending in a powerful final performance.

Each day at camp, the campers enjoy theatre and music games, craft projects, dance breaks, mindfulness moments, and rehearsals and preparation for the end-of-camp performance.

Slots for the Mosaic Summer Camp fill up quickly and thanks to the generosity of Mosaic’s financial partners Kiwanis, M&M Fisher Foundation, the Bruce J. Heim Foundation, and the Jeffrey Seller Foundation, scholarships are available to cover up to 100% of the camp’s cost.

Summer Camp is just one of many youth theatre programs offered at Mosaic. Following summer camp, the organization pivots to its New Voices: Detroit program. This program is for students in 8-12th grade and pairs authors of winning submissions with professional coaches to help develop a play or song for the stage. The culmination of this program is a live performance on Aug. 12 at 6pm at the Detroit Public Theatre. Finalists have been chosen for this year’s event and have already begun working hard on their performances.

These summer programs, along with the rest of Mosaic’s 6,500 hours of annual youth theatre programming, leaves a truly powerful impact on the community. To-date, 97% of Mosaic’s youth ensemble members have been accepted into a college, and most of its students graduate with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Additionally, nearly all the youth ensemble members report believing they are capable of achieving their goals.

Students interested in getting involved in the arts can try out during Mosaic’s next auditions beginning in mid-August. Details on the process are available on Mosaic’s social media pages: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Mad Props

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Everyone remembers the handkerchief in Othello and it’s hard to picture Linus without that blanket. Props can add a lot to creating the world of the story that gets told on stage. Check out what Michelle LeRoy, props designer, for Alice & the New Wonderful, had to say about creating the props for the show.

Q: How did you approach designing the props for “Alice & the New Wonderful” in order to bring both the fantastical world of Wonderland and the real world to life on stage?

A: For me reading through the script a couple of times, seeing the inspiration from the director, and then meeting with all the other designers helps to inspire the direction. Once I knew the aesthetic of the Heights vs the Barrens (real world vs “Wonderland”) informed the choices of color and design. For me, everything, even the slightly fantastical stuff, was still grounded in reality.

Q: Can you talk about any specific props that you’re particularly proud of creating for the production and what role they play in the story of the play?

A: I’m particularly proud of the student’s desks. I don’t want to say too much and give away anything. It was one of those moments where knowing the director wanted some wow moments and getting a note about having a ballpark-esque vendor tray for desks. I just combined the two. I’m also particularly proud of the detailing work Livia, the young technician assigned to props, created on many of the pieces. So look out for things like the Watermelon, detailing on the painter’s backpacks, and the radish salad to name a few.

Q: How did you work with the actors and other members of the production team to ensure that the props were used effectively in conveying the two worlds of Alice?

A: For one there is a lot of cross-over between set, costumes, and props. For example, while the bed is a set piece the bedding was something I worked with the Set Designer on. The mannequins in Maddie’s shop were a total collaboration with the costume designer to make the shop and the costumes cohesive. I also took color inspiration from the projection design. I also sought out inspiration from the young technicians. This show is their world and their voice is invaluable. Props designing has to be collaborative to make it cohesive.

Q: What advice would you give to young people who are interested in pursuing a career in props design, and how did you get started in this field yourself?

A: I have designed props off and on during my career. Most of my 23 years have been as a Stage Manager. It was college that exposed me to all the different aspects of design, directing, performing, and stage managing. For me, that’s what led to my success as a stage manager and my ability to design props. For those that are interested in pursuing props as a career, I would tell them to start making. Maybe make an accessory for a Halloween costume or a decoration for your room, think about the world you want it to live in, who is using it, what would you make it out of, and how would you make it. Continue to learn everything from crafting skills, how to build and use tools, collaborative skills, finding how-to’s on YouTube, taking design classes, learning about new materials, learning about new technology, finding ways of working with props designers at local theatres, learn how to design for other departments of theatre/film, find mentors, and make your own way.

Setting the Stage

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We’re pulling back the curtain to give you a sneak peek into the production process. Over the next few posts, you’ll hear from members of the cast and creative team as they prepare for the world premiere of Alice and the New Wonderful. Let’s set the stage. We had a chance to sit down with Brian Kessler (BK), Scenic Designer for Alice and the New Wonderful. Check out how he took the world of Alice from page to stage.

Q: What inspired the set design for “Alice & the New Wonderful” and how did you approach the task of bringing the story to life visually?

A: So this design was a very different approach for me versus my normal design process. For this show, we read thru the script as a production team and would stop every time we got to a change and discuss what our thoughts were and what we saw.

So having this unified vision from the start really made the process much easier as we were all on the same page. From that point, it became about how to create pieces that could be in this plain drab world but also be used if fun colorful ways for other scenes knowing space limitations at the DFT. which is how most set pieces are used in both worlds of the show.

Q: How did you collaborate with the production team to ensure that the set design complemented the overall vision for the show?

A: This process of me having Asana (which one day I will fully understand) help each other see our thoughts and visions really helped with the collaborations in the production team. From our first meeting, we walk through the show and I feel every scene is a compilation of everyone’s thoughts and ideas

Q: Can you talk about any specific challenges or obstacles that you faced during the set design process and how you overcame them?

A: One of the biggest challenges/obstacles to me was that we all know the story of Alice and Wonderland and how magical Wonderland was. Finding new ways to bring that magical feel into this production.

Q: What is the most striking or memorable aspect of the set design for “Alice & the New Wonderful” and why?

A: For me, it was really when I was doing the texture paint treatments on the set pieces in person. When doing the computer renderings I really got into the different ways layering spray colors looked. With a computer, it is very uniform and when doing spray treatments in person it is so random and easy to manipulate the colors.

Q: How did you incorporate the theme of reintegration into the real world into the set design, and what choices did you make to convey this visually?

A: From early on I wanted to find ways to make as many set pieces appear in both worlds. A lot of them do but each one has a different treatment but still bares resemblance to the other world. Like brick walls that have slanted bricks or Alice’s bed that is all a display in Maddie’s.

Q: Can you describe your creative process when designing a set for a theatrical production and how it differs from designing for other mediums?

A: Most of my design experience is in theatrical productions, however, from the little I have done a lot of the process is the same. First, you want to get to know the space and content of the project and then from there, it’s going into research looking for different imagery that speaks to your thoughts, such as fabrics, textures, colors, and patterns. then it becomes about bringing your visions to life.

Check out Alice & the New Wonderful at the Detroit Film Theater May 20-21, 2023.

Behind the Seams

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Get ready to step into a world of whimsy and wonder with Alice & the New Wonderful! Our production is full of stunning visuals, and the costumes are no exception. We sat down with our costume designer to get an inside look at the creative process behind bringing these characters to life. Join us for this exclusive interview and get a behind-the-scenes peek at the magic of Alice & the New Wonderful.

Calling the Shots

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It takes a village to put on a production as enchanting as Alice & the New Wonderful, and one of the unsung heroes of the show is our Stage Manager. In this exclusive interview, we sit down with the person who keeps everything running smoothly behind the scenes. Get ready to learn how they help bring the magic of Wonderland to life every night, and how their work is crucial to the success of the show.

The Art of Audio

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For many, sound design is often lumped together with music, but it is so much more. There is a team of designers and engineers to ensure audiences hear the show clearly and are transported into the world being created before their eyes. Sound design, like many other design elements, can make or break the experience. Sound Designer Lumumba Reynolds gives us an inside look into the role and its impact as we dive deeper behind the scenes.

Teching It to the Next Level

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to bring a stage production to life? In this exclusive interview, our Tech Theater Program Specialist, Nick Yocum, shares his insights on everything from coordinating lighting and sound to preparing youth apprentices for the big show. As the production manager of Alice & the New Wonderful, he’s intimately familiar with the challenges and rewards of working behind the scenes. So join us for this fascinating glimpse into the world of tech theater and see how our youth apprentices are stepping up to the plate!