Julie Lichtenberg, Director of The Performance Project, and Artistic Director of First Generation Ensemble, discusses their approach to creative youth development work, including their commitment to inclusion and peer mentoring.
The Performance Project’s First Generation brings together young adults ages 14-23 for intensive artistic training, leadership development, and inter-generational mentoring. Forming an artistic ensemble, the First Generation youth create original multi-lingual physical theater performances based on their discoveries.
Julie Lichtenberg, cultural activist, theater and visual artist, has worked in community settings as a teacher, performer, and director, incorporating visual art and physical theater since 1980. She has taught graduate and undergraduate visual art, performed with Beholders Puppet Theater, studied physical theater with Tony Montanero, Sigfrido Aguilar in Mexico, and collaborated with Teatro Mito y Realidad in Chicago.
In 1995, with Elsa Menendez, Lichtenberg co-founded BOOM!theater, a multi-media performance workshop based in a men’s medium-security prison in Connecticut. Through BOOM!theater, Lichtenberg and Menendez developed a collaborative process involving theater, writing, visual art and movement. Over a four-year period, BOOM! created and held performances for “inside” audiences and “outside” guests.
In 2000, Lichtenberg, co-founded the Performance Project at the Hampshire County Jail. The mission of the Performance Project was to create theater that examines systems of oppression that are contributing factors to the high rates of addiction, incarceration, and recidivism of people living in communities facing economic and racial oppression in the US.
Between 2000 and 2004, The Performance Project collaborated with men incarcerated at the Hampshire Jail to create physical theater works. Over 800 people entered the jail to attend performances and participate in post-show dialogues. Lichtenberg also established an “Outside” Company, comprised of members who were formerly incarcerated and professional artists. She has led workshops for women at the local Correctional Center and theater and visual art workshops at Juvenal Correctional facilities.
In 2007, as artistic and managing director of The Performance Project, Lichtenberg initiated First Generation, an arts and youth leadership program that brings together young adults ages 14-23 for intensive artistic training, leadership development, and inter-generational mentoring. Forming an artistic ensemble, the First Generation youth create original multi-lingual physical theater performances based on their discoveries.
Lichtenberg received her BFA from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA from the University of Illinois, Chicago.