Staying true to the creative tenets of its inception, the initiative brings together a professional playwright and a diverse group of metro Atlanta high school students each summer.
The latter will create their own theatrical production based on the themes found in a classic text. Celebrated stage scribe and best-selling author Pearl Cleage is inhabiting the role of the former.
“My function here is not so much as a writer … but as someone who can see the whole picture of where each piece fits and then to put that quilt together,” said Cleage.
John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” is serving as the source material for this year’s three-week summertime intensive.
Under Cleage’s guidance, students will explore Steinbeck’s themes — home, family, environment and income equality — and examine their modern-day manifestations. The final product, though, will be ensconced in the creative voice of the teen collective.
“I think this is the project that everyone of us is most enthusiastic about … because the kids get to have a real sense of ownership over what we create,” said Emma Nigut, a rising senior at Atlanta International School in Buckhead.
In keeping with the spirit of the project’s name, the students will also “collide” with an array of seasoned artists while developing their final production. Singer/songwriter Doria Roberts, musician Bryan Mercer and dance instructor Mama YeYe round out this year’s guest roster.
“I find it to be such a huge comfort to have these renowned artists in our lives because I know they’re going to be there to support us artistically and just as people trying to grow up in these times,” said Tori Budden, a 2014 graduate of North Springs High in Sandy Springs.
Others in the mix concur with the notion of the generational exchange being mutually beneficial.
“You gain a lot of experience from artists [like Cleage] … but also, it humanizes them in your eyes,” said Agustin Jimenez, a rising senior at North Atlanta High.
Cleage, as the Alliance’s Mellon playwright-in-residence, is serving as a project mentor for the fourth consecutive year. For her, participation means a renewed exposure to a fresh perspective.
“The thing that always strikes me about all of them is that they are so optimistic about the possibilities in the world,” said Cleage. “They are optimistic about their own role in shaping that world, which is really wonderful.
“I think that working with people who are older, you often are struck by how cynical adults can be.”
IF YOU GO:
o What: Collision Project
o Where: Hertz Stage at the Alliance Theatre
o When: Friday (July 11) at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at noon and 2:30 p.m.
o Tickets: Free (RSVP recommended)
o Information: (404) 733-4749 or Collision.Project@woodruffcenter.org