After spending 12 years seeking acting in Los Angeles, Anthony Bean never thought he’d end up right back in his hometown of New Orleans.
However, after his teenage daughter suddenly passed away there, he felt like it was time for him to return.
They had maintained a close relationship by visiting one another regularly, but when she abruptly became ill and succumbed, he realized that NOLA — his birthplace and hers — was meant to be his permanent home.
Even though his daughter was young, she had been eager to take over a small theater company Bean had started back in 1973 called the Ethiopian Theater. It was one of the few black-focused theaters in New Orleans.
So, in the wake of his devastating loss, Bean decided to turn his daughter’s dreaming into a brighter reality.
“I wanted more of a commercial theater and an acting school, ” Bean says. “A church and school opened up on Carrollton Avenue. In 2000, it became Anthony Bean Community Theater and Acting School.”
The theater was designed to be a “quality, culturally diverse performing arts venue, ” and the acting school offers an eclectic group of class to both children and adults seeking to learn more about perform, defined design, and theater management.
The youth program, however, became ABCT’s shining superstar.
“There’s such a vast need for this type of work, particularly when you’re catering to inner-city kids, ” Bean says.
While the craft of acting is patently of importance, Bean says much of the work they do is based around social drama, with kids acting out what’s going on in their own lives.
That’s why the school focuses on teaching the Stanislavsky method of acting, which deals with character emotionality first and foremost . Bean says it seems to be the best route in for kids who have less of an academic background.
However, that way of running often delivers astounding results.
“I find when dealing with inner-city kids, feeling is who they are, ” Bean explains. “And when you incorporate that into the arts, you’ve got fireworks.”
Since the start, the youth programs have been popular with kids and parents. That’s why Bean preserves them, even while they don’t have an official space.
Unfortunately their original space was was transformed into a charter school, so ABCT had to vacate, and is currently awaiting sufficient funds to get a new space. While fundraising in the community has been going well enough, it’s been a struggle, especially since the government cut the Wisner Grant, which had supported the theater and school.
That said, he remains optimistic, especially considering the success of the most recent summertime program.
This past summer, they put on two musical productions: “Soulville” and “Old Skool.” If you’re in NOLA during the summer months, the ABCT kids’ indicates are more than worth the price of admission. You won’t only be supporting good theater, you’ll be helping sustain a life-changing school.
The children are learning to channel their emotionality into something constructive, and the most part is, they get to be part of a beautiful, collaborative product that earns rousing applause at the end. What could be more validating?
Not merely is the program giving inner-city children a creative outlet, it’s breeding real talent.
Many ABCT students matriculate into the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts( NOCCA ), one of the most prestigious art programs in the country. Some former students have even gone on to do rather well professionally in the entertainment business. Wendell Pierce — starring of reveals like “The Wire” and “Treme, ” for example — is a former ABCT student .
Bean is working tirelessly to keep ABCT afloat, and hopes the new administration will start lending a hand.
Programs that specifically cater to marginalized and inner-city children are few and far between. Holding schools nationwide are cutting arts programs right and left, theaters like ABCT are becoming rare gems that need to be saved .
Not merely are these programs fun for kids, having a place in which they feel they belong instills confidence in them they might not have found anywhere else.
“There are many children out there who can’t play football, who don’t like athletics, ” Bean says. “I’m an outlet for these kids.”
Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com