Reach Out is an animated web series adapted from plays written by incarcerated Bay Area youth working with the nonprofit Each One Reach One. The program partners incarcerated youth, non incarcerated youth enrolled in arts programs, and professional media makers as advisors and consultants.
Incarcerated youth need an outlet of expression as they develop physically, mentally and psychologically. Incarcerated children are often a hidden population with little voice in the community, with few methods for communication. On the outside youth express themselves in countless ways; through their school work, jobs, hobbies, clothes, social media; incarcerated youth on the other hand in are put in the most inhumane conditions, where food, free time, social interaction and extra curricular activities are severely limited. Being locked up, labeled and judged, incarcerated youth are often greatly conflicted. The ability to share their inner selves through creative means is practically nonexistent. If they could share their struggles perhaps more people would acknowledge them as people, understand and empathize with the real challenges these youth are working to overcome.
Storytelling is one of the most powerful forms of expression. Each One Reach One (EORO) pairs incarcerated youth with professional arts inside detention for writing of one act plays. We want to expand our audience reach by adapting and animating the youth's plays into online animated videos. These stories can then have the chance to touch the hearts of viewers anywhere with internet, allowing a connection and better understanding of a population otherwise deemed as mere criminal offenders.
After the first staged reading of the EORO plays I knew that something powerful was here. Performance day - plays written by incarcerated youth (young writers) are read by professional actors. Parents, social workers, facility staff and other inmates gather in one of the limited access rooms for the show with about 20 people in attendance. Two weeks after the start of my first playwriting workshop, along with 10 other mentors, I had helped a young writer probe emotional ideas and concepts, allowing him to communicate what's rarely communicated. Back in college, I took a class that involved going to a compton high school to teach poetry. I saw the kids learn about this medium and then express themselves with it. Since then I knew I wanted to do more similar workshops. Nearly a decade later I found EORO. On performance day I saw vigor, emotional truth and in a few cases real and raw storytelling talent from the youth. Everyone needs to experience these plays, I thought. Animated adaptations would be the best way to make that happen.
Robin Sohnen- Each One Reach One. Founder, Executive Director - In 1998 Robin Sohnen started the non-profit organization EORO to address the escalating rate of incarcerating youth by exploring theater-based strategies. Dave Garret - Lead Instructor of Each One Reach One playwriting program & Theater Manager at the Children's Creativity Museum in San Francisco. Matt Szymanowski - Each One Reach One playwriting, filmmaker, producer.