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52nd Street Project

What We Do

The Project utilizes theater and the arts to build community. We believe that art is a powerful tool for building empathy and understanding. In order to do this, we partner our youth members with adult volunteer artists through different artistic mediums to create original work, which culminates in theatrical productions and sharings. These programs include: Playmaking, wherein the youth learn how to write for the theater; One-on-Ones, that pair the young people with adults to perform a play together written by adults. Playback, in which the young people’ write a play for themselves and their adult partners; New Platforms, where the young people learn a more specific theatrical skill with their adult partner (such as songmaking and stage combat); Artmaking, where the young people learn about varied visual artforms, and The Teen Ensemble, a year long program of improvisation and technical theater and design, which results in an original full-length production devised by the teens.

Super hero kids

Hint: All kids start here

Arts + Performance

Ages 9-11
Writing + Retreat

Playmaking

This is the gateway program for The 52nd Street Project. You just have to live in Hell’s Kitchen NYC and be 9-10 years old to join. Playmaking, a nine-week class meeting every Tuesday, teaches kids how to write for the theater. At the end of the course, they are assigned a director/dramaturge and given a pair of actors that they’ll write for. We take the kids and their directors away for a writing weekend. Upon returning, the directors stage the plays with the actors and the kids attend some rehearsal. During the production, the child sits at the “Playwright’s Desk” on the corner of the stage while their show is performed. At the end of the show, they all bow together.

Project FAQs

It’s pretty cool to make your imagination just blop out.

Josiah, Age 9
Two adults and one child showing playmaking with an illustrated diploma in the background
An adult and child showing one-on-ones with an illustrated starburst in the background
Ages 10-13
Performance + Retreat

One-on-Ones

One of the first programs conceived at the Project and one of the most popular with audiences. In this summer program, an adult writes a short musical to perform with their young partner. The cast spends a week rehearsing before presenting the shows for free at the Five Angels Theater.

I didn’t even know I had a singing voice like that when I sung that day. So it was surprising to me.

Christian, age 14
Ages 13-14
Writing + Retreat + Performance

Playback

We took our One-on-Ones and flipped the script. Again one adult and one Project member perform in an original piece, usually a musical, but this time the Project member does the writing. After rehearsing, (usually during an out-of-town retreat), the shows are presented free of charge in our own theater.

And it’s kinda really fun cuz writing your own plays…actually kinda feeling like you’re in a Broadway show.

Kassandra, age 9
An adult and young person showing playmaking with an illustrated starburst in the background
Two teens facing each other showing teen ensemble with illustrated circles in the background
Ages 15+
Arts Exposure + Performance + Retreat

Teen Ensemble

A year-long program that welcomes the teens to have a quick hands-on glimpse of lighting, set, prop, sound and costume design. They are then introduced to the skills of creating theater from their own ideas and themes of interest. This means that they create original theater together through improvisation, using their minds and bodies, as opposed to starting on paper. They use theater to look critically at the world around them and create socially relevant original plays while learning vital life skills, enabling youth to become self-confident, compassionate and accountable; to develop relationships across differences; build community; and be prepared to act as contributing citizens. The program culminates in an original full-length play completely devised and performed by the teens.

Teen Ensemble is a super fun and exciting way to connect with fellow teen Project members in a creative space.

Amirah, age 16
Mixed Ages
Arts Exposure

New Platforms

New Platforms offers Project Members new creative challenges and opportunities for self-expression during the school year.

Project Members, with support from adult volunteer partners, get the chance to explore topics like Songmaking, Stage Combat, Artmaking, Filmmaking, Radiomaking, Dancemaking, Poetry, Storytelling, and Solo Performance.

Each New Platforms program concludes with a one-night-only presentation of the Project Member’s work.

For me, the hardest part was picking one of my many fabulous stories.

Jayla, age 14
A collage of performers

Education

A young person holding book props in each hand
All Ages
Academics

Homework Help

Our Homework Help program happens every weekday and gives our members the opportunity to come to the Clubhouse and get support on their schoolwork. The clubhouse serves as a community center for Project Members to convene after school. Here they can unwind from school, hang out with friends from the neighborhood, play games (ping pong!) and eat snacks. We offer one-on-one tutoring for Project Members as needed.

Back then, I was a little kid and I didn’t really like Homework Help. Now, I have a lot of fun because Homework is more easy.

Ethan, age 14
Ages 16+
Academics

College Prep

The 52nd Street Project offers Project Members support in applying to higher education and preparing for life after high school. Project Members can get help creating and editing applications and essays. The Project partners with Bespoke Education Inc. to provide SAT prep for high school aged members.Through this partnership The Project also offers a Life Skills course (financial literacy, safety, & organization) for graduating seniors to support their transition into life after high school.

Throughout the application process the Project staff and community helped me in so many ways, from reading my personal statement and essays to encouraging me and always being there to help. I went into the University of Michigan more sure and confident in myself, knowing that I was capable and got in for a reason.

Karen Tineo
A young person holding a book prop
A young person wearing a cap and gown holding a diploma over their head
Ages 18+
Academics

Scholarships

The Ron Black Memorial Scholarship Fund, est. 1995
This fund gives a grant to any Project Member who pursues education beyond high school. Grants are awarded at the Scholarship Party, which is held in the clubhouse each summer and celebrates the achievements of Project Alumni.

The Henry and Gloria Jacobs Scholarship

This fund offers qualified Project Members who demonstrate high academic merit and financial need the opportunity to receive a scholarship to the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan.

To support our Scholarship Program, CLICK HERE.

As I prepare for graduation, I cannot help but reflect on my journey. I have come to realize how much my 8 years at The 52nd Street Project shaped the values that make me who I am today. I will be forever grateful for the support and relationships The 52nd Street Project created for me.

Doris Alcántara, Fulbright Scholar & graduate of Gallaudet University
Ages 16+
Life Skills

Teen Employment

The 52nd Street Project offers Project Members ages 14 to 18 the opportunity to work as a Teen Employee. This opportunity gives the teens a sense of ownership and pride, work experience, and a way to earn money. Teen Employees can work as receptionists, ushers, class assistants, and homework helpers.

It’s like a full-circle moment, because we started here as little children and now we’re grown, and getting to work together.

Melanie, age 15
A young person holding a phone prop

Mentorships

All Ages
Mentoring

Smart Partners

The Smart Partners program brings together kids and adult mentors in collaborative relationships that foster open and equal exchange, lifelong learning, and sustained connection.

Each Project Member who participates is matched with an adult mentor who meets with them once a week. Together they work toward any goal they may have. Smart Partner pairs are encouraged to try new things together and explore the city. Some pairs like to do activities (like bike riding, baking, or creating art,) and some like to simply grab a tea and chat. Each partnership is unique and hopefully lasts until the Project Member graduates (or beyond!)

A collage of pictures showing smart partner activities
    Lynne Rosenberg + Sarah

    Lynne Rosenberg + Sarah

    ‘Smartners’ since 2018
    Michael Propster + Edgar

    Michael Propster + Edgar

    ‘Smartners’ since 2022
    Melanie + Angie Toledo

    Melanie + Angie Toledo

    ‘Smartners’ since 2022
    Xavier + Ronald Peet

    Xavier + Ronald Peet

    ‘Smartners’ since 2017
Mentoring

Fivey Magazine

Fivey Magazine is a favorite activity of the Smart Partner kids and adults alike. The greatest result of Fivey has been the creative outlet afforded to the kids, a clear source of pride for them, drawing submissions from kids who had previously expressed an aversion to reading and writing.

Check out our archive of Fivey Magazines here
A collage of fivey magazines