That’s the idea award-winning poet and author Jackie Warren-Moore got across to Media Unit’s teen performers during her workshop last week as they prepared for competition the next day.
Media Unit was preparing for the BeVard Teen Performance Festival where they compete against other teen groups with skits that deal with social issues that face teens today.
“I need more emotion from you,” she says to one of the teens. She also encouraged them all to use their bodies more to express themselves. “You have to use your body language to talk. Use it to help get your points across.” She had them do a few exercises with minimum dialogue to practice using their body language.
After several exercises to development their character she ended the session by having them each go to a corner of the room to “hang up” their character by stepping out of it as if they were clothes. I thought that was pretty neat concept to get them in and out of their character.
The preparation paid off the next day when the Media Unit competed with The Bronx’s Positive Youth Group at the BeVard Teen Performance Festival at the John H. Mulroy Civic Center. They took home the Bessie Smith Award for Best Performance.
Their performance kicked off with a street scene with all of the characters giving glimpses of their lives.
Characters like “Wannabe” who wanted to belong and “Flunky” who had a reputation for that reflected his name, but was actually somewhat of a genius. As “Right-hand person” declared to the audience ” Guess you can’t judge a book by its cover,” that was one of the themes of the Media Unit’s original play “Angels with Broken Wings: If We had Peace.”
You may be thinking… hey, didn’t they do that play before? Well, yes and no. Yes, they’ve done versions of it. But, this version, in my humble opinion is their best. Sure, they cover the important social issues that face teens ranging from peer pressure to senseless killings in our streets.
But, as a music producer, I was really impressed with the tight harmonies in their performance of “Street Life”. It’s definitely the best I’ve heard in recent history from the Media unit. Walt, you definitely should keep this group as long as you can .
And their dance numbers in tribute to the King of Pop were quite impressive. They did “Bad” and “Thriller.’ You can’t go wrong with a few MJ songs.
I could go on, but I want to also talk about the other talented group they competed against. But, definitely check out Media Unit when you can. They’ll be at the State Fair. Call 478-8648 for the schedule.
The Positive Youth Group from the Bronx kicked off their original play – C.H.O.I.E.S. – with a high-energy dance and song number and chorus that put emphasis on making the right choices in their lives.
The setting was on a train and the conductor took them on a trip in time to help them explore their choices and look at the consequences of their choices.
A few examples of the choices made throughout the play included a girl who was in an abusive relationship deciding if she should stay or leave; a boy who wanted to retaliate against a group of boys – by shooting them – who had been picking on him at school and much more; and a girl who was under pressure from her boyfriend to have sex with her “if she really loved him.”
Both groups did an awesome job and audience members were on the edge of their seats for both performances.
Here the list of winners for the BeVard Fesival:
Both Media Unit and Positive Youth Troupe got the Curtis Mayfield Award for Excellence in Ensemble.
Akil Rivers of PYT got best sound design.
Kyla McAlmont of Media Unit got best lighting design.
Elias Soto of PYT and Destany Finney of Media Unit got
Billie Holiday Awards as Best Performers.
Media Unit won the Bessie Smith Award as Best Performance.
The District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick received what I believe is the highest award ever given by the Media Unit –
The Walt Award – kind of an Oscar wannabe statue of sorts that featured the image of Media Unit’s founder and executive producer Walt Shepperd . Cool stuff!
*Charles “CJack” Jackson is an award-winning music and TV producer. Check out CJack Run Presents…WorldWide at ustream.tv/channel/cjack-run-presents