Just a Girl with a Dream
Interning and Envisioning at The Theater Offensive
In this special two-part series, theatre artists Tatiana Gil and Max Cerci speak on their experiences working at the Theater Offensive as True Color Expansion interns last summer. Though they worked together as co-interns under the same position, Tati and Max had the opportunity to hone in on their specific point of view throughout their experience. In this series, these artists reflect on the different questions they each confronted and explored during their time at TTO.
On a quick ride to the train station one night, I found myself having a six-minute deep life conversation with my Uber driver. The words “Life’s a bitch, but you gotta fight” came out of my mouth. He responded “That’s a perfect way to put it.” I then thought to myself, is enjoyment then the byproduct of the fight? Life throws mad curve balls and the trick is to keep on fighting. Yet for me, the trick is to keep on dreaming, and find the joy.
“I am a dreamer. I make my dreams come true. I fight for my dreams.” These mantras coursed through me as I arrived at 565 Boylston Street as a True Colors Expansion Intern at The Theater Offensive (TTO) this past summer. I came in flushed, following my gut because there was something inherently important about empowering queer youth, and using theatre to do so. Sidney Monroe, the Youth Programs Manager and my fearless leader, sat me down during the first few days of our time together and asked, “What do you want to explore during your time with us?”
I set out with some very expansive questions like, “What does queer youth empowerment look like in theory and in practice?”, and “How can devised theatre be used to empower queer youth so that they may go forward to challenge and overthrow patriarchal forms of power?” OK Tatiana, get out of your head. Although these questions got my intellectual juices flowing, it was really in the doing that my dream as a theatre artist became laser specific.
I witnessed teenagers learning how to own themselves in space, as well as being empowerment by telling their stories in a theatrical realm.
As an intern, I completed tasks such as purchasing food for rehearsals and events, and tracking and scheduling meetings in the Master Google calendar. I also had the opportunity to participate in the Summer Troupe program. As an ensemble we created a safe space with low stakes so that the creating process was made more easily assessable. The scene was set for exploration and fun, as theatrical devising tools were used to promote empowerment and the development of artistic identity. Writing responses to poems, movement improvisation, and basic acting and scene work were all facilitated with a specific focus on the ensemble members owning and navigating their own experience. Within the rehearsal space, Evelyn (The Director of Programs), Lilli (The Teaching Assistant) and I always strove to be as supportive, yet as hands off as possible so that the ensemble members could have space to empower themselves. This delicate space was absolutely essential to the process and the key to genuine empowerment.
While connecting with these incredible young people of the troupe, I realized I wanted to create my own queer youth empowerment troupe! I witnessed teenagers learning how to own themselves in space, as well as being empowerment by telling their stories in a theatrical realm. I witnessed one of the youngest and shyest troupe members surprise us all when she slayed her monologue in the final performance to a full house. Through her performance, I witnessed the emergence of a strong, powerful young woman. The summer troupe provided her with a space to explore, grow, and enjoy herself, which I believe created the foundation for her to do what she did.
My experience at The Theater Offensive last summer has been the number one contributing factor to my development as a theatre artist. I found my specific purpose. I found what I most desire to create in this world.
When I wasn’t at troupe rehearsal or performing, I was a busy assisting Sidney with social media, event planning and execution, prepping mailers, and hiring. These projects in along with my assigned readings—Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, Devising Theatre by Allison Oddey, Applied Theatre by Philip Taylor, and children’s plays by José Cruz González—helped me in focusing my experiences into a clear vision. I sat down at my favorite coffee shop with my botany notebook and started writing. What flowed out of my green pen was the beginnings of an empire with a queer youth theatre troupe as one of the key tiers. My entire life I have known I wanted to change the world, but as the world is a very complicated and ugly place, that task was severely daunting. Yet for the first time in my life, I put down my green pen and thought, “My God, this empire could be my small contribution to changing the world.”
The other tiers of this empire include: a devising collective that creates pieces in response to the happenings of the world; a company that is dedicated to producing new works specifically telling stories about the queer and/or Latinx people; and because I am obsessed with coffee, a cute coffee shop! Yes, I am aware that my vision is expansive, but I’m just a girl with a dream and I will fight for it to become a reality.
My experience at The Theater Offensive last summer has been the number one contributing factor to my development as a theatre artist. I found my specific purpose. I found what I most desire to create in this world. And through this experience, I made a lasting relationship with my supervisors, Sidney Monroe, Evelyn Francis, Abe Rybeck, the Executive Artistic Director, and the rest of the TTO staff because they function as a fun-loving family. Most importantly though, I made deep connections with the summer troupe members who have honestly changed my life.
My vision is for middle school Tati, whose very religiously conservative mother didn’t speak to her when she found out her daughter was in love with a girl. My vision is for all the fourteen year olds trying to figure themselves out, who need a space to laugh, cry, and stand grounded to the earth so that they may realize their immense inner strength. My vision is for all queer youth who feel powerless; may they discover and live in their power—because let’s face it, the youth are the future and I hope they will make this world a better place.