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The Journey to Founding Downstage Arts, Part II


Welcome back, Lindsay! Last time, we talked about you and why you started Downstage Arts. Today, we unpack a little bit more. So many of us, whether we are in the arts or not, are on a journey to find our purpose. Knowing that you have found yours and that you are concurrently pursuing several paths in the arts is inspirational. What is your biggest hope for DSA?

To change the way that preparation for performing arts higher ed programs is treated. It costs $20,000 per year for a young artist to be competitive. . .which means that students going into higher ed are mostly wealthy [also college in general is expensive]. How can we tell stories of humanity if we see only one type of person on the stages? And in higher education? Yikes! I had zero BIPOC in my undergrad program and only one in my master’s program. I hope that we can take the uncertainty out of these auditions for our students. Unless you are lucky enough to attend a performing arts high school, there’s no way you’d be prepared for numerous dance calls, monologue prep (“do your monologue again and this time pretend you’re a mouse”—remember that?) and choosing the correct song material. All of that on top of trying to graduate high school is extremely stressful for a student—and believe me, I’ve seen it. It’s a time for them to grow up and be independent, but it’s also a crucial time in their lives, when they are potentially signing up for a lifetime of student debt, so they need proper guidance and direction.

“How can we tell stories of humanity if we see only one type of person on the stages? And in higher education? Yikes! I had zero BIPOC in my undergrad program and only one in my master’s program.”

You ask the most important question, "How can we tell stories of humanity if we see only one type of person on the stages?" Our art lacks honesty if we prioritize one demographic, effectively upstaging both the story’s narration and the narrative itself. (Also, I know at the age of 18, I could not begin to comprehend how much my education was going to cost me!) With an already packed schedule, may I ask what keeps you inspired to continue the work every day?

My students. Seeing them succeed is truly the biggest joy. There is so much to do—they have been taken advantage of by this system for so long. Self discovery isn’t promoted when you’re young—when a student is good at something, that’s usually what they focus on. But what happens when that isn’t enough anymore? Art should be used for exploration—how do the students find their own voices, amidst the words and music being thrown at them.

“Art should be used for exploration—how do the students find their own voices amidst the words and music being thrown at them.”

You are sharing so many nuggets of wisdom! To not let students use art as exploration is taking away one of the most powerful aspects of the craft. Art allows us to heal, supplies joy and thrill, and opens our minds to new and thought-provoking ideas. To put it simply, the arts nourish our head and heart. Thank you for sharing more of your journey and plans for DSA, Lindsay!

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