CASAC and Infinity Revive Awareness Theater

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Article Contributed by
CASAC

Chautauqua Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Council (CASAC) and Infinity Visual and Performing Arts have been working together to bring Awareness Theater back to life in Chautauqua County. In 1985, John Blackman founded Awareness Theatre (AT) as a prevention strategy for young people through the use of theatre. Using a variety of dramatic presentation styles, the group sought not only to educate its audience, but to help the youth participants gain an understanding of the important issues facing today’s youth and ultimately change their lives and their community.

“Everyday youth are confronted with various struggles. Youth are dealing with being a victim of bullying, dealing with dysfunction at home, or struggling with how to handle the constant peer pressure from others, regarding alcohol and other substances. It can be extremely overwhelming for students. Awareness Theatre provides an opportunity to open up about these concerns, discuss solutions, and act out these real life scenarios. Not only does it impact the youth involved in the group, but the community members that have the pleasure to view the skits developed,” says CASAC Executive Director, Melanie Witkowski.

Youth participants will work with a team of Infinity and CASAC mentors to create, develop, and script skits. CASAC Staff will help introduce current research and information about various focus topics in response to student requests and ideas. Once the scripts are complete, Infinity’s video crew will record AT students performing their skits and CASAC will be able to utilize them for their educational programs throughout the community.

Former Awareness Theater alumnus, Sheridan Smith, will be directing the AT group at Infinity. Sheridan says, “Awareness Theatre was the first place I felt I really belonged. Not because I was what people wanted me to be, but because they just got to know me and support me no matter what. The troupe taught me what it was to make a difference in a person’s life, and how impactful theatre could be, and I have since worked to make the world a better place.”

Laurie Reynolds, CASAC Director of Program Services states, “Awareness Theatre brings a group of students together with a common goal – to be there for one another and to be a role model for their fellow peers.”

CASAC and Infinity are grateful for grant support from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to help make this program possible for our community.

Infinity Executive Director, Shane Hawkins, says she is, “excited to help make this unique program available to Chautauqua County students once again. Infinity provides a safe, supportive environment for students to express themselves through a variety of creative outlets, with the support of a mentoring instructor. Awareness Theatre fits in seamlessly with Infinity’s mission and student programming, we can’t wait to watch it develop and grow!”

Awareness Theater is open to students ages 10-18. The group meets on Monday evenings from 6pm-7pm at the Infinity Center in Jamestown. Any interested students should contact the Infinity Center for registration information by calling 716-664-0991.

ABOUT CASAC:
Since 1974, Chautauqua Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Council (CASAC) has provided alcohol, other drugs, and compulsive gambling prevention services to the Chautauqua County community.

CASAC’s prevention strategies take aim at how people think, feel, and act by focusing messages and activities on areas of influence such as the individual, family, or community.

Infinity

ABOUT INFINITY:
Infinity is a music and arts education and performing arts center that offers private lessons and group experiences within five pillars of the arts: music, art, dance, theater, and literature. Infinity offers something for all ages and experience levels, and encourages students to Explore, Experience, and Excel in the arts!

New student orientations take place once a month at 301 East Second Street Lynn Building, Suite 101, Jamestown, NY 14701. For more information, call 716-664-0991 or visit www.infinityperformingarts.org.