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Arts and Entertainment

Wanted: talented youth for large-scale performance
Hundreds of youth will storm the halls of CPCC's Halton Theater July 29
Published Tuesday, July 16, 2013 2:00 pm
by Michaela L. Duckett

Approximately 400 youth take part in ITF's annual X-perience. The annual conference and performance has become so popular it has outgrown its space at Spirit Square and will be held at CPCC's Halton Theater July 29 - Aug. 4.

Starting July 29, hundreds of young playwrights, actors, choreographers, dancers and visual artists ages 10 – 21, will flood the halls of Central Piedmont Community College’s Halton Theater.

They will be engaged in a series of workshops designed to cultivate their raw talent and skills as part of Inspire the Fire’s annual X-perience.

“Every year we have about 400 young people,” said Dennis Reed, ITF’s founder and CEO. “And we completely takeover wherever we are.”

Reed said the program is not just for those who are extraordinarily talented in the arts. It’s for all youth.

“To be honest,” he said. “You just have to be a young person between the ages of 10 and 21 that wants to do something positive and meet new people instead of sitting at home.”

The weeklong conference will culminate on August 4 with a large-scale live production of dance, song, spoken word, theatrical performances, visual arts and other artistic expressions. The vast majority of the performances will contain all-original material created by the participating youth.

The workshops and opportunity to perform are provided at no cost to participants. Youth interested in joining ITF can register online at www.InspireTheFire.org or in person on July 21 6 p.m. at the Charlotte Chamber (330 S. Tryon Street). Over 200 youth have already pre-registered.

The theme for this year’s X-perience is “Life on Fire: We are the Possible.” Reed said it was inspired by Maya Angelou when ITF participants had the opportunity to perform for her birthday celebration earlier this year with Oprah Winfrey.

“That’s the phrase she told us,” said Reed. “She said, ‘Just let people know that you are possible.’ I thought about that and it just kind of stuck with me… We are the possible. We can make a difference. We can change things.”

ITF is a Charlotte nonprofit with a mission “to inspire positive change in adolescents through faith, fun and the arts.”

Reed said he officially launched the program in 2006 because he wanted to provide an outlet for inner-city youth to showcase their talents and express themselves - something he said is needed now as much as, if not more than, ever.

“We created Inspire the Fire to give young people that positive alternative to sitting at home or walking around in the streets aimlessly,” he said. “With the Trayvon Martin case and the tragedies and violence we are seeing with our young people in other cities, we want to give the young people in this city and surrounding areas a positive alternative… a space to be themselves, to express themselves and really talk about issues that have been in their hearts and minds.”

The scope of the program extends far beyond one week of summer workshops. Throughout the year, mentors, artists and parents from the community volunteer to help participants hone their skills in the areas of song, dance, theatre and visual arts.

ITF participants recently had the opportunity to display their talents on a national stage, placing in the season 7 semifinals of “America’s Got Talent.”

When ITF began, there were about 150 participants. Today, it reaches about 4,000 youth annually, and Reed said the goal is to reach 10,000 youth annually by 2015.

While the focus of ITF is on artistic expression, participants also engage heavily in community outreach service projects and use their talents to give back and uplift the spirits of those around them.

Participants have worked on numerous projects to raise awareness and funds for a variety of social ailments including hunger and homelessness. This past year, ITF has worked closely with The Harvest Center, a nonprofit on Charlotte’s west side that helps homeless people find shelter and employment.

Reed said ITF is much more than a program; it’s a movement.

“It’s a movement of giving back,” he said. “It’s a movement of seeing problems and becoming solutions.” He adds that the most monumental movements that have taken place in America and countries across the world began with young people.

“It’s the young people who are revolting and uprising,” he said. “Even in past generations, the Civil Rights movement was started by young people. And I believe the movement of today is still going to remain with young people in the forefront.”

Visit www.InspireTheFire.org for more information or to make donations.


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