Hartford-Based HartBeat Ensemble Will Stage A Production Focusing
On Young People
April 8, 2005
By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer
Through a new play
that combines hip-hop and musical drama, a cast of local
teenagers and professional actors is addressing how stress,
high expectations and the search for identity and acceptance
affect today's youth.
Performed by members of the
Hartford-based HartBeat Ensemble, "News
to Me" is the second in a series of three work-in-progress
versions of the play that focuses on a diverse group of young
people who are given the chance to create their own TV news program.
Using drama, music and poetry as their vehicles for expression,
the cast will give a free performance tonight at 6:30 at Liberty
Christian Church, 23 Vine St. The Men of Color Initiative and
Hartford Communities that Care are sponsors of the show.
After the performance, youths from Stump the Violence, a program
of Hartford Communities that Care, will lead a talk-back session
with audience members. Feedback from this session will be incorporated
in the final work-in-progress version, which will be performed
at Hartford Stage in May. In November, the final version will
be performed at the Charter Oak Cultural Center.
Hartford resident Julia B.
Rosenblatt,who founded HartBeat in 2001 with fellow actors
Gregory Tate and Steven Ginsburg, said most of the play's teenage
participants were her students at the Greater Hartford Academy
of the Arts where she teaches theater. Participation in "News to Me" not
only gives the students experience with a professional theater
group, it gives them a say in the development of the script,
"Our education program [at the academy] is to teach youth
and adults to use theater as a tool for social, political and
personal change," said Rosenblatt. "Our main stage
shows are about telling stories of everyday people and the lives
During a rehearsal this week, the cast worked on a scene in
which the teenage characters, overseen by governing adults played
by Tate and Rosenblatt, tried to decide on the topic for a TV
news story. Since the backgrounds of the characters differ, finding
commonality is, at first, a challenge. The teenage characters
include Deandre, the black city kid who is trying to escape the
streets; Kristy, the white suburbanite who feels the stress of
having to be perfect; Danni, a Latina trumpet player who struggles
with her identity; and Jack (portrayed by Ginsburg), a white
liberal who continually rebels against authority.
Eventually, the characters agree to report on the stresses and
unrealistic expectations of standardized testing in public schools.
Raymond Fraser, a student at the city's classical magnet school,
said he likes how the show brings diverse people together to
discuss important issues.
"For the most part, the character of Deandre is accurate," said
Fraser, 16. "I would only wish that his poverty was able
to be portrayed more than it is so that the audience can picture
that he is from the bottom of society."
Brigid Pasco, 16, a student at New Britain High School and the
academy, said she hopes the audience will see that her character
is not as shallow as she appears.
"I have been making her stereotyped," she said of
Kristy. "She's got to be deeper, and I think she does open
up. She faces emotional and spiritual crises that are caused
by all the stress in her life."
Capital Community College student Denise Poventud,19, a Hartford
resident who portrays Danni, said the play gives the teens a
"My character is a brilliant trumpet player, but she can't
take the test," said Poventud, who will attend Trinity College
in the fall. "It takes more than a test to show how intelligent
or creative you are. They don't have a test for creativity."
Stage manager Anastasia Anderson, who attends Weaver High School
and the academy, said the experience has been fun and educational.
Although the characters are stereotypes, she thinks they are
largely portrayed accurately.
"I don't know how I feel about stereotypes, but there is
some truth to them," said Anderson, 16. "That truth,
people can see it. It's cliché, but it's true too."
In addition to the actors,
the play includes rap lyrics by Pat "KlockWize" O'Sullivan,
16, a student at Hall High School in West Hartford. For information
on the performance, call the HartBeat Ensemble at 860-548-9144.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at