Collaboraction, an ethno-diverse social justice organization that uses theater and performance to incite social change in Chicago, announced The Light, a radical new program dedicated to recruiting, mentoring, introducing and inspiring exceptional Chicago youth artists and activists over the course of a full year. The Light is Collaboration’s debut of its youth education program, focused on outstanding youth artists and change-makers of exceptional message, skill and craft who are eager to be immersed in a deep artistic and scholarly mentorship as part of a year-long, paid creation and performance mentorship program. The Light casting was supported by Claire Simon Casting.
The class of students include Nate Buescher, 13, a talented young TV and stage actor, singer and dancer. Nate Buescher is a busy actor with TV shows/pilots for ABC, FOX, NBC and Amazon. He is also a stage actor and has performed at Goodman, Paramount and Drury Lane. He has danced for the Chicago Bulls as a member of Bulls Kidz for four years and he looks forward to the upcoming season. Nate is also a company member at Xtreme Dance Force where he has been dancing for nine years. He studies voice at Your True Voice Studio Chicago. In his free time, Nate is an active volunteer at the Honeycomb Project, which puts kids at the forefront of social change by mobilizing whole families to build strong and connected communities through public service.
“I believe I can change people’s perspective to embrace people’s differences, differences should be celebrated.” – Nate Buescher
Marcus Jackson, 17, is a southside student focusing on community apathy and acting. He has been acting since age ﬁve, starting with plays at his church before signing with an agent and since acting in a number of TV shows. He lives with his family on the southside of Chicago and is a senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. In his free time he enjoys acting, running track, lifeguarding, producing, ﬁlming and editing.
“We ﬁght for what’s right! Representation, equity and justice for all!” – Phallon and Kyra Pierce
Identical twins Phallon and Kyra Pierce, aka The Pierce Twins, are artists, athletes and activists. They have appeared in print, on camera and on stage and have studied theater and dance for over nine years. They are also all around athletes as nationally ranked competitive dancers and they have also received top awards in cheerleading and basketball. They currently train at Kids W.A.Y. Acting Academy in Chicago and Freedom of Movement Dance Company in Naperville. The Pierce Twins are honor students who have received local, regional and national recognition for their academic achievements. Phallon and Kyra currently have a bill on the
Illinois House Floor called The Pierce Twins Law. If passed, it will ensure K-12 curriculums throughout the state of Illinois will include books written by diverse authors. The creation and attention for the bill was sparked after the girls led a state-wide campaign after noticing racially insensitive books and a lack of multicultural authors on their assigned 8th grade summer reading list. They have since created their own multicultural reading list for schools and founded their own non-proﬁt, Positive Change Charities Inc. Their mission is to help kids in need, promote literacy and diversity in literary curriculums. In addition to working toward getting legislation passed at state and federal levels, their goal is also to provide 10,000 books to underfunded school libraries across the country. In June, the girls partnered with Chicago Public Schools and provided more than 800 books to CPS school libraries and their literacy program.
“You can’t see it, but it’s happening.” – Ella Rae
Ella Rae is a singer, songwriter and actress. She has been singing since she can remember, and acting since the age of six. Ella got her start performing in the Chicago Children’s Choir and in annual musicals at Pritzker Elementary. She also participated in Collaboraction’s Peacemakers Youth Ensemble, has performed at Collaboraction’s Utopian Ball, and was a featured performer in Collaboraction’s ﬁrst The Light Youth Festival, when she wowed crowds in front of The Bean in Millennium Park performing her original song “Happy Place.” In 2019, Ella Rae was named a Rising Star of Chicago by the City of Chicago, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and First Lady Amy Eshleman. She lives in Wicker Park and is a freshman at Columbia College Chicago.
Ava Lynn Trpeski, 15, from Crown Heights, Indiana, whose focus is body positivity and confronting the stigma of what a dancer should look like. “These six outstanding young people have the potential to impact generational shifts in attitude and behavior around critical social issues,” said Anthony Moseley, Artistic Director, Collaboraction. “Our plan is to invest heavily into their development so they will illuminate social change in Chicago with their talent and activism, while inspiring their fellow youth to find their own voices as well.” This project is partially supported by the Marc and Jeanne Malnati Family Foundation, The Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks and sponsored by Toyota.
“Collaboraction is a unique change agent, located in the city of Chicago, that inspires and provokes independent thinking and creativity in the arts community,” says Alva Adams-Mason, Group Manager, Multicultural Business Strategy and Dealer Relations for Toyota Motor North America. “Toyota Motor North America recognizes the exceptional students thriving in the many diverse neighborhoods of the Chicagoland area and seeks to support the elevation of those creative voices, by expanding access to opportunities to strengthen those communities with the artists and activists of tomorrow.”
The Light will premiere their new works August 19-21, 2021, with free, live, outdoor performances on three consecutive nights at three Chicago Park District locations around the city: Thursday, August 19 at 6 p.m. at Douglass Park, 1401 S. Sacramento in North Lawndale; Friday, August 20 at 5 p.m. at LaFollette Park, 1333 N. Laramie in Austin; and Saturday, August 21at 5 p.m. at Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St. in Englewood (followed by a free movie). Collaboraction’s world premiere performances of The Light are presented as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks program. In keeping with Collaboraction’s Equitable Pay for All policy, all six members of The Light will be fully compensated for their time, including creation, mentorship, rehearsal, and performances.
For more information on The Light and all of Collaboraction’s social change work, visit collaboraction.org.