Cambridge Performance Project
Helps Unleash Youthful Creativity
By Susie Davidson
Since 1984, the non-profit Cambridge Performance Project has helped young people aged 5-14 hone their creative abilities in a fun and educational way. Held at various area schools, the dance, music and theater offerings are staffed by highly established arts professionals.
Located at 51 Inman St., the CPP, funded in part by a state agency that supports public programs in the arts, humanities and sciences, focuses on the creative process as it aims to foster life-long apprecation of and participation in the arts, for students of every race, ethnicity, economic background, neighborhood and school in the city.
Classes are held at the Cambridgeport Community School, Fitzgerald Community School, Fletcher Maynard Academy Community School, Graham and Parks School, Haggerty Community School, Kennedy Community School, King Community School, Longfellow Community School and Morse Community School.
“I agreed to take this position for one main reason, the kids,” said Executive Director Lisa Giuffré, who manages operations along with Administrator: Judy Bibbins. “I feel very passionately about making the arts accessible to everyone. Many of these young people might not ever have an arts education experience if it weren't for CPP. While myriad documentation exists which proves how important the arts are to a young person's development, suffice it to say that the courses we offer provide one of the safest, most nurturing ways for young people to express themselves and be creative.”
By taking on a character, creating a movement piece, or drumming African rhythms, children are given an opportunity to express their emotions and passions, their fears and hopes. “Because they express themselves through a character, a dance or music,” she said, “they're safe to do so without feeling self-conscious.”
As rewarding and meaningful as it can be, continuing the CPP mission will not be easy in the coming year. “We wouldn't have survived for 18 years,” said Giuffre, who holds an M.S. in Management with a specialization in Arts Administration from the Lesley School of Management, and a B.M. in flute performance from The Boston Conservatory, “without the generous support of foundations, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and individuals who care about the kids of Cambridge.” She noted that they would have to work harder than ever to obtain the support of individuals and local businesses in order to help make up for the decrease in MCC funding that has affected virtually all arts organizations across the Commonwealth.
This year’s dance offerings are Creative Movement 1 and 2 and Creative Movement 3 and 4, where students explore individual choreography, movement games and dance technique, and Dancing Fun!, where stories are created through varied dance formats. Joyful Jumping coerces kids to “cavort like kittens and dance like dalmations” in creative movements; students dance island style in Caribbean Movement.
Theater selections are highly innovative as well. In From the Page to the Stage, students create characters, through improvisation and other techniques, based on their own life experiences. Theater games and improv are used to develop characters in Theater Games and Acting; Movement and Theater Fun Play continues theater skills development and culminates in a spring showcase. More sophisticated techniques are explored in Theater Club; instruction in the art of playwrighting is the curricula of Write On!
Amistad International Bilingual Drama Club is a Latin-American themed improv exploration. Drama and Movement combines, with props, partners and group work, both dance techniques and character-based movement. Rounding out the drama showcase is Character Play 1 and 2, where varied fun character roles are acted out.
For music classes, Drumming to the Beat 1 and Drumming to the Beat 2 and 3 allow students to create stories and characters and bring them alive through West African percussive rhythms.
Giuffré, who has served as Executive Director of the Orpheum Foxborough and Managing Director of The Theater Offensive, is moving ahead, despite the challenging arts climate. “I'm looking forward to working with the Community Schools and our teachers to create new courses in the coming year,” she said. “In addition, I'm hoping to expand our programming by bringing in professional artists to do Residencies or workshops.”
The crux of her mission, she emphasized, is to keep making the Performance Project’s work fresh, and vital to all.