History

In 2000, under the vision and leadership of Julia Kamin, an intrepid collection of artists, activists, and educators came together for a simple purpose: use theater to give young people living in NYC something to look forward to after school.

 

Energized by the urgent need for equitable arts programming in New York City public schools, Opening Act teaching artist and first full-time staff person, Suzy Myers Jackson, became Executive Director in 2008 and has since facilitated over a decade of tremendous growth under her transformative leadership.

Suzy Myers Jackson directing emerging artists

Growing from one after school partnership in 2000 to 57 in 2020, Opening Act has produced hundreds of original student performances; trained thousands of young people in improv, acting technique, and playmaking; and has awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships for students matriculating to college and professional performance-based classes in NYC. 

Actors celebrate after YESfest performance

In 2016, Opening Act recommitted to working with NYC’s most vulnerable population of youth through its partnership with District 79, NYC’s alternative school system that engages young people disconnected from their education due to incarceration, homelessness, and other challenges. Along with its Act 2 College and Career Readiness program, pilot Middle School programming, robust Alumni Network, and enriching Summer Arts and Leadership Conservatory and Student Leadership Company, Opening Act has demonstrated that accessible, high-quality theater education, in collaboration with a supportive community, is a spark that transforms lives.

Opening Act Timeline since 2000

As we approach the new educational landscape of the upcoming year, Opening Act is committed to providing both virtual workshops that meet the unique needs of our school community and experiences that engage our supporters in exciting ways. With this in mind, we are re-envisioning the format of our programs to meet new remote learning requirements, deepening our trauma informed/healing centered practices to support our students, and re-imagining donor engagement. We remain dedicated to creating a unique, brave, and empowering space – even when that space is virtual.

At this time, when so many of the issues Opening Act’s work addresses – social justice, education, the arts, equity – are gaining urgency because of national events, our programming is especially critical and relevant.