Level up!: Austin teens spark change through theatre arts


Amelia Bagnaschi

CLYTE wraps up their performance at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Photo by Amelia Bagnaschi.

The room is filled with hustle and bustle, sounds of laughter and comradely bouncing off of the walls. All collaboratively working to Change Lives. Together.

Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble, or “CLYTE”, is a partnership between Expect Respect and Creative Action. Changing Lives is the acting branch of the three Creative Action teen programs, while the others include film and visual art.

“We are a diverse youth theatre group that is also an activist group,” Micky Johnson (9) said. “At Changing Lives, you are able to be yourself, and just have fun, all while working to make a difference.”

The goal of Changing Lives is to prepare teens for healthy relationships and teaching them to stand up against dating violence. They do this through teen-written stage productions.

“We mainly focus on getting the word out about healthy relationships, but we also try to write scripts about racism and homophobia,” Allegra Green (10) said.

Creative Action and Changing Lives have students in the whole city of Austin, but many of the students come from Ann Richards.

In the fall semester, the group works together to write and rehearse the spring script. Script writing is a very collaborative process that involves everyone in the group. Every person brings their own experiences to the table.

“Be prepared to bring and receive new ideas.” Green said. “It’s a nice melting pot of ideas and it provides great discussion topics,”

As a part of Changing Lives, students collaborate with the other members to write and perform a play. After the writing process, the play will tour all around Austin middle schools.

This year’s production, Level Up, follows four main characters who all have a struggle in their lives, all involving their home and school lives.

“The characters find themselves in a video game, where they all learn to face their problems head on,” Jeansonne said.  

Applications for all three Creative Action programs are now open for the 2017-2018 school year for 14-18 year old kids. In addition to Changing Lives, Youth Cinema Collective and Color Squad focus on film and visual arts respectively.

“[If you are going to join] just be yourself. Be open minded and supportive.” Johnson said. “It’s a very safe place and people really care about you there.”