Yes! And… improves lives through improv

The stage in McInnis auditorium is covered with students and volunteers who lay flat on their backs. Some giggle, unsure of what’s about to happen. Some wait patiently for instruction.

What are they doing there? They’re warming-up for rehearsal for the Yes! And… musical, A Winter Sort of Thing: It’s About Time, which will be held from Jan. 28 to 31.

Yes! And… is a non-profit organization whose goal is to offer a consistent, creative experience for underprivileged students. Since 1998, it has offered more than 40 summer camps in the Philadelphia area.

Over the past four years, the organization has been producing original musicals for Eastern’s stage with Philadelphia students as its core ensemble.

“We only ever do original pieces that are at least in part created by the actors,” Yes! And… Executive Director Brooke Sexton said.

For some high school students involved with Yes! And…, the rehearsal and performance of A Winter Sort of Thing is the first time they think about visiting a college campus.

For Te’yana Jett, who will be transferring to Eastern in the fall, Yes! And… has been the experience of a lifetime.

“I’ve grown up in Yes! And… my entire life,” Jett said.

Jett started participating as a student with the organization in 2001. Now, she’s employed as the organization’s movement teacher. Jett plans to continue working with the group after she graduates.

This is just one of many success stories for Yes! And… which was the vision of Eastern alumni Joanna Sweeny, Jake Miller, Michael Brix and Sarah Butts-Manzo, who collaborated with Sexton.

“For kids living in bad neighborhoods where there is no creative solution, we are helping them to imagine something different,” Sexton said. “Our focus is in building imagination skill.”

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