Despite being in Pittsburgh’s East End for a decade, the Alumni Theater Company (ATC) had been without a permanent space. Last fall, the organization moved to its new home — on Hamilton Avenue on the border of Homewood and Larimer.
“It’s a really great location,” Executive Director Hallie Donner says. “There’s already so much happening here. There are a lot of kids, lots of young people.”
Named because its original members attended the former Urban League Charter School, the Alumni Theater Company’s new space now has a 100-seat black box theater — named in honor of the late film and stage actor, Bill Nunn.
As for the company, it has a clear mission: “to create bold theatrical work that gives fresh voice to urban artists,” says Donner.
The work done by ATC gives voice to urban youth, allowing their families and members of the community to not only hear what the youth have to say, but also to understand and appreciate what they are saying.
Homewood is a neighborhood that has long struggled. Its City Councilman, the Rev. Ricky Burgess, called it “a community in crisis … with the highest amount of violence and economic distress” in a 2015 opinion piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But he said “good things” were happening in the neighborhood, too.
The Post-Gazette reported in December, the Urban Redevelopment Authority planned to invest nearly $650,000 for new infrastructure projects in Homewood. Also, NFL Hall of Famer and Homewood native Curtis Martin announced in September plans for a multi-sport field in the neighborhood, the newspaper reported.
ATC boasts three companies: A young ensemble of middle-school children, a teen ensemble comprised of high-school age students, and a professional company. They all create and perform original, as well as established work.
“They take classes to develop their skills in different performing arts and are able to then use those skills to make their own work come alive,” Donner says.
Alumni Theater Company will host a Hip Hop Class on May 14, as part of Remake Learning Days.
“The energy of the ATC member and the way they are able to balance having fun and working hard is wonderful,” Donner says. “Anyone who comes in and participates in the class is affected by that. It’s a great vibe, a really good energy.”
Remake Learning “does a really great job of reaching out and working with kids,” she says. “They asked if we want to pitch in and be a part of all these amazing events.”
ATC participated in Remake Learning Days last year, too, and Donner sees this year as an opportunity for more teenagers to see ATC’s new home and what the company has to offer.
“ATC members are such tremendous hosts and they are proud of their home and what we do, and having the opportunity to open the doors and welcome other people is something they love,” she says.
Alumni Theater Company is one of four organizations in Homewood participating in this year’s Remake Learning Days. The others: Homewood Children’s Village, Legacy Arts Project, and the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
“Remake Learning is very important because we always are looking for creative ways for kids to be engaged,” says Felicia Brown, media and technology coordinator at Homewood Children’s Village.
The organization’s mission, according to its website, “is to improve the lives of Homewood’s children and simultaneously reweave the fabric of the community in which they live.”
Homewood Children’s Village helps about 1,000 students a day, says its Controller Renee Durham.
“We provide in-school and out-of-school programs in three of the public schools. We help manage a pipeline of service, K-12 … focusing on college and career,” Durham says.
On May 19, Homewood Children’s Village will host a Maker event, which will involve video game development.
“It’s an adventure story, a role play game,” says Brown, adding Google Digital Skills will help prepare the game and participants will be involved in arts, crafts and character design.
“Because of the STEAM-based activities we do with students in our after-school programs, Remake Learning is just naturally something that falls in our wheelhouse,” Durham says.
Adds Brown: “A lot of the things Remake Learning advocates use creative thinking. It gets the best out of students. It makes very complex things very digestible for multiple ages.”
We would like to thank The Heinz Endowments for their generous support of Remake Learning Days in Homewood.
Remake Learning Days events in Homewood:
2 – 5 p.m., Saturday, May 11 | The Legacy Arts Project
A collaboration between the Legacy Arts Project and the K-Theater Dance Complex, this is an afternoon workshop of various styles of dance. Participants are invited to experiment with different styles or brush up their skills, if they are already familiar. The project features ballet, West African, and Hip Hop dance and engages youth in creative expression, increased body awareness and positive self-esteem. The project also serves as a cultural bridge, providing space for youth of diverse backgrounds to converge and exchange. Through this project, participants have the opportunity to be exposed to diverse art forms and cultural expressions.
6 – 8 p.m., Tuesday, May 14 | Alumni Theater Company
Alumni Theater Company creates bold theatrical work that gives fresh voice to the experience of young urban artists and highlights their rich contribution to our community. This event will feature ATC Young Artists Ensemble in a high energy, super fun Hip Hop class.
4 – 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 15 | Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Homewood
Enhance your learning in the Library! Support and supplement the homeschool experience through books and other resources. During this program, children will explore creating a glowing globe while meeting new friends, through a variety of activities, including having a dance party with our collaborative art project we create.
3 – 6 p.m., Sunday, May 19 | Homewood Children’s Village
This marks the second annual Making Together interactive showcase.
Participants are encouraged to visit The Shop to experience exciting learning opportunities for all ages. The event is focusing on creative ways to expand learning with hands-on, fun and engaging activities. There will be food and lots of maker-centered learning spaces for everyone!