Top 5 Reasons YOU Should DO TTSC!

We think you’ll love the Teen Theater Summer Camp – but don’t just take our word for it!
Julia Thurston, former TTSC student and current intern, tells us why TTSC is for you: 
Julia performs from Williams Shakespeare's
Julia performs from William Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” at TTSC 2014.

I love seeing plays, writing, performing, and acting, and I hope to do all of these in my pursuit of theater in college next year. I found out about the Teen Theater Summer Camp at the 14th Street Y through the MCC Theater Youth Company, a free after-school acting and playwriting company for NYC high school students, which I’ve been involved with since 2011.

I absolutely LOVED my two weeks at TTSC last year, and I’m so excited to be this year’s intern!
So, here are the top 5 reasons why YOU should do TTSC!
  1. You’ll form instant connections.
    It doesn’t matter if you come to TTSC with your best friend or if everyone there is a complete stranger –through improv games and icebreakers the first day, you’ll open up to your new peers and be laughing with them at lunch a few hours later, and by the time you perform your showcase at the end of the two weeks, you’ll practically be family! It’s an awesome way to make new friends with people who love theater just as much as you do.
  2. You’ll learn all about the crazy world of auditioning. (And it will be fun!)
    Over the 2 weeks at TTSC last summer, I learned a contemporary monologue AND a Shakespeare monologue, and performed one of them for a mock audition just over a week later! If that sounds scary, don’t worry — you’ll learn all about how to combat nerves and even use them to your advantage when acting and singing for an audition, as well as how to dress and introduce yourself. For me, that experience REALLY paid off for my college auditions over the winter!
  3. You’ll perform your own writing.
    In your afternoon session, you’ll get to work on writing and performing your own short plays in small groups — last year we had conversations about and performed theater for social justice, focusing on issues that were prevalent in our lives as teens, such as bullying and the portrayals of women in the media. Pretty fascinating topics, right? We were able to tell about our experiences and bring these issues to light through our art, which is really cool (and quite unique.)
  4. You’ll meet all kinds of theater artists. 
    From your teaching artists (who may specialize in acting, Shakespeare, music, dance, or all of the above!) who you learn from everyday, to the multi-disciplinary theater guest artists that you meet along the way, you’ll learn that there are more ways to make a career in theater than you could ever imagine! You might meet professional playwrights, theater educators, actors, (and many more), find out about how they chose their path, and how they got to where they are today. You might be inspired to pursue something you never even knew existed before!
  5. You’ll be doing what you love.
    If you’re at all interested in theater, acting, or performing, there’s something for everyone at TTSC. You may fall in love with acting after working on a monologue or song with a teacher, or might find out that Shakespeare isn’t as scary as you thought! You may even try your hand at playwriting, directing, or physical comedy. And everybody loves improv games! (You’ll probably break out into a spontaneous game of Zip Zap Zop or Bus Stop with your new friends during lunch!) I promise by the time you take your final bow, you’ll want to do it all again!

“The Kaleidoscope Showcase” with the “Hebrew Mamita”

VanessaHidaryIn July, “The Kaleidoscope Showcase” directed by the “Hebrew Mamita” Vanessa Hidary will bring experiences about the colorful spectrum of Jewish lives spoken by the people that live them to the Theater at the 14th Street Y. We spoke with Vanessa about “Kaleidoscope” and her own journey as a story-teller using her background to both educate and entertain.

What is “Kaleidoscope?”
The Kaleidoscope Showcase is a theatrical storytelling journey designed to help Jews explore their diverse racial and ethnic Jewish identities, through monologues, stories and spoken-word.

Why this type of project now?
Jews have been ethnically, racially, and culturally diverse, since ancient times, but now we’ve reached a moment in time where people are more open to acknowledge that reality and nuance their understandings of what a Jew looks like.

Tell us about the “Hebrew Mamita.”vanessa speaks
A Sephardic/Ashkenazie smoothie. NYC born and bred, and fortunate enough to have been raised alongside the many cultures that made up the old upper West Side. A passionate storyteller who strives to foster stories that live outside the box.
Why is the oral tradition and story-telling so important now or so important to the Jewish identity?
I firmly believe the personal monologue opens up our ears and hearts through what has been referred to as “edutainment”: The act of learning through a medium that both educates and entertains.

What should we expect to see at “Kaleidoscope?”
A colorful tapestry of Jews and unique personal stories.

What kind of artists and speakers will be sharing their stories?
Artists willing to take a risk. Some of whom have never performed their own work before, and are ready to share their stories.

You can see “The Kaleidoscope Showcase” at the Theater at the 14th Street Y July 15th, 16th, & 19th.

Join The Kaleidoscope Project on Facebook for up to date information, conversation and updates.

To purchase tickets to “The Kaleidoscope Showcase” click here.

Create. Perform. Inspire. Lead.

Hey everyone! Ashley here, Camp Director of the Teen Theater Summer Camp at the 14th Street Y. I grew up spending just about every summer at a camp very similar to our theater camp in Southern California. I met some of my best friends to this day in that program. Some of the alumni have gone on to perform on Broadway, some are working in film and TV in Los Angeles. Some are teachers, some are lawyers, some are opera singers, some are engineers. Regardless of what you study in college or what industry you end up working in, having theater in your life as a young person is an unforgettable and invaluable experience.

Our mission at TTSC is “Create. Perform. Inspire. Lead.” This summer, we are bringing together a community of unique and diverse theater companies and artists to empower our students in these four areas. Stay tuned for future posts announcing our programming partners who will work with our students to:

CREATE their own theater in workshops and breakout sessions, while developing theater technique.

PERFORM in two students showcases for an audience of family and friends and a mock audition workshop for a panel of theater professionals.

INSPIRE others through the creation of new theater based on issues facing young people in NYC.

LEAD fellow students as they work collaboratively and receive mentorship from guest artists and staff.

We are gearing up for another amazing summer of acting, singing, dancing, directing, creating, and sharing. All that’s missing is you! Register here! 14th Street Y members save on registration. Want to bring a friend? You’ll save an additional $100 on your registration! Email with any questions.

Thaxton Ashley  - 1092Ashley Renee Thaxton is the Camp Director of the Teen Theater Summer Camp at the 14th Street Y, originally from Southern California. A graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School, she is a theater artist, educator, and arts administrator. In the fall, she will begin her MFA at Brooklyn College in Acting. Learn more at

Counting The Days, Making Them Count.

Today we are welcoming our newest staff member, Brian Garrick, Assistant Program Director of Jewish Life and Learning. Brian’s first project is to engage all of us in the counting of the Omer, marking our personal and collective time between the holidays of Passover (in early April) and Shavuot (in late May).

The question has often been posed in religious and secular circles; how can we use our precious days in this lifetime? How can we make our days count?  Because it is a tradition to count the Omer,  Brian will be engaging all of us to count our days (through our 14th Street Y twitter account @14thstreetY) and talk about how we make our days count.  Please read below a message from Brian, and follow us @14thstreetY to retweet, comment, share, and count with us.

-Camille Diamond; Director of Community Engagement and Communications

In our busy, over-programmed world, too infrequently we create opportunities for self-reflection. The Jewish tradition offers us an incredible opportunity to look at ourselves and to ask questions of ourselves through Counting the Omer (Sefirat HaOmer). Omer means measures in Hebrew. When the Temple stood, it was customary to bring a measure of barley harvest as an offering three times a year, at Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot. The tradition of Counting the Omer dates to those ancient times. We measured the seven weeks between planting new barley and harvesting it; then offered a measure, in thanks, to God. The meaning of the counting and our awareness of time and its passage during those days has changed over time. Nowadays, most of us are not barley farmers, and the Temple no longer stands, so we must imbue practices like counting the Omer with new meaning.

Each Spring we count the days between Passover and Shavuot, 7 weeks of 7 days, 49 days total, leading up to the 50th day on Shavuot. During Passover, we celebrate the Exodus, the liberation of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Shavuot is the anniversary of the day when the ancient Israelites accepted the teachings of Torah at Mount Sinai. If Passover signifies freedom, then Shavuot signifies responsibility, the responsibility of living a good, just and ethical life according to Torah. The movement from redemption of Exodus to revelation at Sinai, echoes our ancestors’ journey out of Egypt and through the desert to Sinai.

As we move toward responsibility, we have an opportunity to ask ourselves why we count. We can take a serious look at what that responsibility entails, as Jews, and/or as citizens in our communities. So our counting becomes meaningful and an opportunity to reflect on our relationship to self, to others and to our communities. It provides an occasion to ask “Why I count?” Not simply asking, “Why I count the omer?” but the larger question of “Why I count in the world?” What is my relationship to it? How do I situate myself in relation to others? What is important to me? What is important that I tell or share with others? How does my organization or my community fit into the larger framework of the Jewish community, of downtown, etc? Perhaps, one can see this reflective practice as an extension of the questioning that began at the seder. What difference can I make in the world? What is my place here? What impact can I make? The omer is a call to be more than we have been before.


Here at The 14th Street Y, we are providing a platform for to engage in a social media campaign around The Counting of the Omer: #YiCount. Each day of the Omer, we will invite you to share with your community why you count.  

Please follow @14thstreetY to discover the question of the day and to learn why others are counting as well.


We look forward to the conversation.

Brian Garrick

brian garrick

Brian is a recent transplant to New York City from San Francisco. He has worked as Program Manager for Arts & Ideas at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. He currently produces the weekly literary series at The Half King in Chelsea, New York City. He holds an MA in Jewish Studies from Emory University and has spent time learning at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.  His talents and interests include the history and science of gastronomy, collecting vinyl records, Jewish philosophy, and rooting for the Los Angeles Lakers.