| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter

Programs

All-of-Us Express Children’s Theatre


All-of-Us Express Children’s Theatre in Lansing has been raising the curtain and shining a light on area youth for over 20 years. The unique skills and experiences this organization infuses into the lives of youth permeate through to their futures, equipping them to not only be creative leaders, but leaders who understand the value of collaborative effort. 
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your organization innovative, effective or remarkable? 
Miranda Sue Hartmann, Artistic Director of All-of-Us Express: Through our Guild Program, a patented apprenticeship program, youth are given the opportunity to learn all aspects of theater in a safe and structured environment through the guidance of an artist with experience in their field. After completing the master level in a specific area, such as set construction or costuming, the youth are eligible to be hired as the head of that crew for a show.
 
A key component of this program is the alumni involvement. Current participants get to learn directly from our alumni; they get to understand what they’ve learned and how that served them during their time at AETC and after. We have at least 3 to 4 alumni working on each production, each working one on one with our youth participants. These relationships tend to step beyond the traditional mentor/mentee roles; the kids are able to see how the program helped the alumni and actually follow directly in their footsteps with guidance. We make the relationships personal and tangible.
 
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
When working with youth, flexibility is crucial. The adults can sit down for meeting after meeting and put together a production plan but when the young creative minds get working, things will inevitably change some.
 
We learned this during our fall production of “Dracula.” A specific casting vision was laid out for a couple of roles in the show; interaction with these characters was to be minimal and distanced from the audience for the purpose of the storyline. However, all that changed once we saw how the actresses interacted with one another on stage and with their audience. They were so easy to connect with! The vision had to flex with the talent and abilities of the youth. It’s unique to working with children; the surprises they have that contradict what you had in mind can be some of the most positive aspects of a production.
 
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
Sometimes the unplanned result is the better result. My youth have reminded me this year that sometimes it is better to just let the creative juices flow rather than trying to mold the project to fit our past experience and knowledge. We relearned this lesson this year in working on “The Little Prince.” As adults who are short on time or sometimes even creativity, we find it hard to let go of a known routine. It’s safe and we know what to expect. We were reminded that this approach seldom works when you’re dealing with so many creative, eager minds.
Our expectations were delightfully shattered and the show took a whole new and wonderful direction because of youth who were willing to challenge past experiences.
Our expectations were delightfully shattered and the show took a whole new and wonderful direction because of youth who were willing to challenge past experiences. It’s a very positive experience, and also a humbling reminder that we need to remember where our focus and heart lies.
 
What really differentiates this organization?
Unlike the majority of children/youth theater programs in this country, AECT utilizes youth talents exclusively on-stage as well as backstage. While the area we work in is specific to the arts, what the youth take beyond our doors is so much more broad. They leave with an array of life skills to take into their futures, which are so diverse.
 
Our alumni are politicians, producers, doctors, filmmakers, as well as theater professionals. We hear stories from our alumni of great things happening for them because of the skills they learned at AECT. It’s because of those successes that we see so many alumni give and come back. Our alumni are known to keep up memberships and visit, in addition to program volunteering. One of the greatest compliments and testaments to our program is when alumni send their children through the program. Our connection is one that’s long lasting and something we’re very proud of.
 
What are the keys to success for your organization?
The leaders of AECT, past and present, work under an unwritten policy that the
...decisions made within this organization are made based on what is best for the youth rather than what is comfortable or convenient for the adults. This means that sometimes we need to step outside of ourselves and our comfort zones in order to best serve our youth participants and their families.
decisions made within this organization are made based on what is best for the youth rather than what is comfortable or convenient for the adults. This means that sometimes we need to step outside of ourselves and our comfort zones in order to best serve our youth participants and their families. I think this makes us and the organization stronger.
 
How do you innovate programming? Where do the ideas come from? How do you know if they are going to work?
Most of our innovative thinking and creative development come about based on feedback from our youth participants or from observations made while working with them. Youth participants serve on our Board of Trustees, participate in our fundraising and are involved in the selecting of future productions as well as the planning for current productions. They have a hand in almost every area of the organization. We know we are doing a good job when they are successful.
Signup for Email Alerts

Person Profile

Organization

  • All-of-Us Express Children's Theatre
    All-of-Us Express Children’s Theatre in Lansing has been raising the curtain and shining a light on area youth for over 20 years. The unique skills and experiences this organization infuses into the lives of youth permeate through to their ...

People

Stuart Ray, Mindy Ysasi, Mike Kerkorian, Ellen Carpenter from Grand Rapids' Nonprofits

Jumping Ship: Former Corporate Leaders Tell All


Detroit Future Schools

Flipping the Script on Teacher-and-Textbook Instruction


Berston Bicycle Club

Kids Discover the Power of Pedaling

View All People

Programs

Verona Early Grade Reading Achievement

Verona Early Grade Reading Achievement Program

Improving K-2 reading

Music Makers list

Music Makers

Making music, building trust

FIRED UP!

FIRED UP!

Firing up kids through glass art
View All Programs

Bright Ideas

ostdogood LIST

Company Supports 4th Grade Field Trips to Lake Michigan

Parents working more than one job or odd hours, a lack of funds, and no transportation often prevent kids from experiencing one of Michigan’s incredible natural resources. For the majority of west side Grand Rapids elementary school kids, Lake Michigan is sadly out of reach. OST has teamed up with Grand Rapids Public Schools to give fourth-graders at west side schools the opportunity to experience the big lake firsthand.

1000 Books Program at Kalamazoo Library.

One Thousand Books Before Kindergarten

If you were writing the book of a child's life wouldn't you like it to have a happy ending? Every day more children are signing up for a Kalamazoo Public Library program intended to give them a life that includes loving the reading of books. 

Superior Watershed foundation youth program

U.P. Youth Help Conserve Great Lakes

K-12 students are taking part in a monarch butterfly project, while 16-24 year olds have been working in the Great Lakes Conservation Corps for years. Both are initiatives through the Superior Watershed Partnership to connect youth with their environment.
View All Bright Ideas

Directly Related Content