ART IS... Sir Curtis Kirby III

Sir Curtis Kirby III, Ojibwe/African American lives in St Paul. Kirby is the Director of the Ikidowin Youth Theater Ensemble. He has directed We will do it for the Water, Everything is a Circle and Beishigo Asemaa.  Kirby was the Assistant Director for Pangea World Theater’s Five Weeks and Sabra Falling.  This year, he has been awarded a Fellowship with Pangea World Theater for Directing.

AIRED: June 13, 2019 | 0:04:59

(upbeat music)

- The Phillips neighborhood in all its madness,

is so beautiful.

And because it's like you see the resilience.

If you walk out there, you see kids running,

you see people smiling, you see hope,

still within everything, and it's so diverse,

it's like a melting pot.

Through all that is beauty.

It's really somewhere that's kinda imperfect,

but it builds great people.

(upbeat music)

Community really drives me, and it's not just the youth

that I work with, it's any youth around,

because like I always like to tell them,

in a few years you're gonna be adults.

And you're gonna make these decisions, you're gonna vote,

you're gonna be contributing to society.

I hope you're greater than I am.

And that's like the dream, you know,

so I just like to see people succeed.

(Speaking Ojibwe)

My name is Heart, and I'm from the Wolf Clan,

but my given name at birth, is Sir Curtis Kirby the third.

(upbeat music)

(chill music)

the Indigenous Peoples Task Force

is a place of many different things.

We have gardening program, we have an outreach program,

we have youth programs, and a part

of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force

is the Ikidowin Acting Ensemble,

and I am the director of that.

Raise your hand if you've done vocal warmups.

Alright, yeah a little bit you guys have, right?

This is meant to teach you how to get your breath

from your stomach, and then also

to loosen up your vocal cords, okay?

We are the the Ikidowin Youth Acting Ensemble,

and it's a group of 12-17 year olds.

What is unique about us is, we do public health,

and then also we do theater.

I want you guys just to start walking in a circle.

So just pick a direction and start walking.

But together, walking together.

Pull your shoulders up toward your neck,

pull them up, hold them there.

So it started about seven years ago

when I was working at White Bear Lake school district,

and they asked me to come and fill in for the summer.

I seen that I could really make a difference

in the community that I grew up in,

and really give back in that way,

and you know, with theater you touch people,

you know what I mean, it's really heartfelt,

and there's a lot of emotion in that room,

you know, that happens, and especially with all the work

that we do because it's theater, but about our community,

you know, about how we grew up, issues that we deal with,

you know, political views that we have.

Then we'll do a skit on it,

and then throughout those things, pieces are developed.

What is something that we could change in our community,

or what's something that needs to be changed

in our community?

I asked all of you to think about it

so ya we will open with you and let you pass it

which way, you want.

- So a big problem in our community, is homelessness.

Its really sad. I walk outside or on the TV,

I see tent city and I see so many people there.

- I think a big problem in our community is,

Native Americans dropping out of school and

falling into the stereotypes.

- I think a big problem in our community is,

people not being able to defend themselves.

Against what other people say, and what they do.

- People not being able to use their voice.

Before my background was in coaching.

I played football my whole life.

From third grade all the way through college.

So I know how to gather people, I know how to uniform

a team. But I didn't really know much about theater.

I had to step up and start directing some of these pieces

if I wanted to push us forward.

One group is going to be (mumbles),

and one is going to be the talker alright.

One minute to tell them the most important

story you ever had. The other person is NOT going to listen.

Allowing our youth to tell their stories,

you know what I mean. We have a lot of writing sessions.

The kids wrote everything there, the poems, to the

dialogue, to the monologue. Everything!

That is why its unique.

Because, we had never done anything like that.

"(youth chatting)"

- I think anything we talk about, is going to resonate

with people. There going to feel that effect.

Because its live you know?

So I think that's the greatest part of doing that theater,

and having them reach people. Almost start gathering

thoughts, because its so much more then, theater.

"(youth acting)"

- In our community we have a really low graduation rate,

so some of these skills, like public speaking,

talking in front of people. Just making yourself

vulnerable is kind of new to us.

I can tell you, a lot of these youth, if you see them

that have been through this program, their graduating

through the strength of this program.

I knows that's what makes it happen. If there were more

people that just cared. So I know what we given them,

is a place to be safe. A place to just come and be yourself.

To express yourself, and grow.

"(upbeat music)"


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