Jordan Powell, 2050 Administrative Education and Engagement Fellows, sits down with Javon Q. Minter to discuss Youth Artistic Instigators and the creation of their live show, PROJECT: ICARUS, at NYTW.
So, tell us about yourself and how you became an artist and a teacher.
Javon: I’ve been an artist my entire life. I used to write when I was a child and I doodled. I was always making up different scenarios when I played with my toys, but in terms of theater, I got into it when I was in Community College. I took a voice class and our midterm was to audition for Little Shop of Horrors, and I was cast as Audrey. That’s where I began in terms of theater and acting. At that time, I was a Philosophy major and then I transferred to Brooklyn College and kept on with acting. I became a teaching artist after graduating from Brooklyn College. I booked a contract with Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and they had an internship for a year and that’s where I ended up teaching as part of the internship and I’ve always wanted to teach. I’ve always had that [desire]. To teach, I feel like there are those that have knowledge and then that there are those that can teach. I’ve always wanted to teach, loved teaching, so that’s where I kind of got into it. And I really flourished in that area. I love seeing people grasp an idea and run with it in whatever direction it takes them, so being able to do that has always been very fulfilling for me.
What has the process of creating this show been like?
Javon: Ooh baby, this process has been a fun, collaborative, a wild ride. Yeah, the process has been extremely collaborative. I can’t say any other word above that. The students came in ready to work, ready to tell their stories. Nothing about this story is from my brain, and it is entirely all about them. They came together after working with a few viewpoints’ exercises, and some ensemble exercises, and then from there I just paired them off and they just took the reins, and they created a wonderful story.
Where did the inspiration for the show come from?
Javon: The inspiration for the show came out of an exercise that I gave them two prompts to think about individually. The first prompt was: “Tell us about a time when you faced adversity what was the outcome and what was the outcome you would have wanted?” The second prompt I gave them was: “You are standing at the end of the world, what words would you leave behind?” From there I had them combine their stories. They kept combining them, combining them, combining them until we got this production and then we worked collaboratively to trim it down and make it cohesive. That’s where it came from. The inspiration for the play came from their brains, from their hearts. It’s what they wanted to tell.
What is the most memorable thing about this process and group?
Javon: The most memorable thing about this group? The most memorable thing about this group is that there’s a grit to them. They didn’t come to play with y’all. They could have easily told a kind of Captain Planet, Sesame Street-esque kind of story and I do think we, quote unquote professional theater artists at large, do youth a disservice by expecting that from them. I think we shortchange them of the opportunity to tell a real story, and that’s what they came to do. They didn’t come to play, everything that came out of their brains was something that was so profound, and it wowed me. I’m in the room with them watching them create in real time and I’m still blown away by them. I’m really just taken aback at how they have shown up every week, ready to play, ready to learn, ready to tell their stories. They’re always fighting to say, “hey, we have this idea.” “What if we do this?” I admit that I don’t know everything, and I’ll tell them, “Hey, y’all, so we got to figure this out together.” Someone is like, “Hey, great, I actually thought about that and here’s the solution I brought.” I’m like, yes, amazing! Let’s work it out. So, I just really love that they show up with all the materials. They show up like they are prepared to go out into the world after this and be professional artists. I think they have the building blocks for that already. So, I think that is what I am left with. When I think about them.
See more details about PROJECT:ICARUS.