Paul Daily. Photo by Shannon Zahnle

Editor’s note: The following is a press release from the Youth Theatre Collective. Bloom has republished it here with edits for style and clarity.

The City-Wide Youth Theatre Collective is a new theater group in Bloomington, made up of diverse students (BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and their allies) ages 13–18. The students are working with a partnership of professional creatives to create an original musical focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The project was conceived and initiated by Dr. Gustave Weltsek and is funded by grants through Indiana University.

The students involved are responsible for every aspect of the virtual production process including script, music, dance and choreography, and set design and construction.

“Although there are organizations in town that provide quality training in the performing arts, I wanted to open up a space for youths to explore their identities using theatre,” says Weltsek. “It is this aspect of youth voice which allows this collaborative community arts project to uniquely enrich the Bloomington community social fabric.”

This collaborative arts experience is free of charge for the youth involved as a way to lessen the barriers that may exist due to individual family financial restrictions.

“The students were identified as socially engaged and interested in a space for self-expression and civic action, rather than solely for their artistic ability,” says Paul Daily, director of the project. “And the professionals involved are equally interested in the power of theatre to transform participants and audience alike.”

Weltsek has extensive experience and a national and international reputation for this type of devised work with youth specifically around issues of race, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. His work at IU with the Emergent Theatre Project earned him the IU Building Bridges Award and his research on language equity through creativity in colonized Puerto Rico earned him the American Alliance for Theater and Education’s prestigious research award in 2013.

Daily, who for 10 years was the artistic director of the John Waldron Arts Center, has been involved in theater communities in London, England, and New York City. In New York, he was the associate artistic director for two theaters, including Rabbit Hole Ensemble, a company he co-founded and ran from 2005–2007. After returning to his hometown of Kokomo, Indiana, in 2008, Daily helped create a student theater environment for the Ivy Tech–Kokomo region. He has performed in numerous shows, including a 2010 New York Planet Connections Theatre Festivity production of The Manhattan Project, for which he was awarded Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play for the role of Charles.

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