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Unusual Suspects Theatre Co

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts Education, Children & Youth, Theater, Youth Development Programs

Mission: The mission of The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company is to mentor, educate, and enrich underserved youth through the creation of collaborative, original theatre.

Results: Over the last 25 years, The Unusual Suspects has served over 8,000 youth, with 164 public performances at 41 locations. To date, our youth have written over 90 original plays witnessed by 20,000 + audience members.

Target demographics: 100% of our participants are underserved and at significant risk for gang involvement, crime, and incarceration or recidivism due to the social isolation of low-income neighborhoods and a lack of adequate social/educational programs and services. With the vast majority of our youth living below the federal poverty line, many have been affected by violence, abuse or neglect, and suffer from PTSD, while a significant percentage are in foster care, juvenile detention, or on probation.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 1,300 youth and parents and 1,176 audience members at 25 locations throughout Los Angeles County

Geographic areas served: Los Angeles County Probation facilities, Pacoima, San Fernando, North Hills, Watts and South LA

Programs: US programs complement one another to respond flexibly to the needs of our 1,300 annual underserved participants. Our flagship YOUTH THEATRE RESIDENCY PROGRAM (YTRP) provides theatre-arts education for at-risk youth during vulnerable after-school hours. Our VAST (Voices for Arts & Social Theatre) ENRICHMENT PROGRAM offers in-class arts-education to improve students’ language, communication and teamwork skills. Our intergenerational NEIGHBORHOOD VOICES PROGRAM (NV) engages youth and families in creating and performing an original fable/morality play. Our THEATRE & CULTURE ACCESS PROGRAM (TCAP) introduces low-income youth and adults to professional theatre. Our new VOICES FROM INSIDE PROGRAM (VIP) combines in-class and after-school theatre-arts education with trauma-informed healing practices for incarcerated and system-engaged minors. This innovative program grew from our ongoing collaboration with the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network (AIYN), of which we are a founding member.

Community Stories

8 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have seen this company change the trajectory of young lives in the Los Angeles area. The kids learn to work together, communicate their feelings and thoughts, get exposed to the arts, and feel accomplished by the end in a way that they have never felt before. They learn to be PROUD of themselves through this group that is invaluable. All through the lens of art. I cannot speak higher about this company.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

this company has such a wonderful mission and cause! I hope they expand to more school sites in the near future.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

For over twenty years I have worked as a Program Director for numerous cause-driven non-profit organizations and I must say, hands-down, The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company is by far the best! The office staff, Teaching Artists and volunteers do so much to mentor and enrich the lives of youth. When I hear our young program participants say things like, “The Unusual Suspects program helped me…become more confident…get out of my comfort zone…make friends…share my voice…do better in school…talk to people…overcome my fear…deal with my anger…become less sad…see the good in people…improve my relationship with my parents…understand I am not a gang-member…give me purpose in life,” I know the organization is really making a difference in the lives of the wonderful kids we serve!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I saw a student performance from this company in May 2018 and loved everything about it! This is a truly special company with ability to empower young people by helping them write and perform their own work. Keep up the good work!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first got involved with The Unusual Suspects as a Volunteer after meeting one of the Teaching Artists. He spoke so highly of the organization and the impact that he had seen on the students that I knew it was an organization I wanted to support. I have taught theatre for numerous organizations and The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company is top in terms of integrity, programming/curriculum, and passionate community. I have seen first-hand students light up a stage, surprising themselves and their family, with their creativity and the courage to share it.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am so grateful for this program. I was involved with the program during my senior year of high school. What I gained from this company were networking skills, communication skills, and more confidence with myself. The lessons and experiences that this company brought to me were ones that will stay with me forever. I am so thankful for the friendships and the support that was given to me. The staff and teaching artists made me feel part of a family. A family that is supportive and encouraging of one another. Thank you for everything.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Unusual Suspects goes above and beyond providing the best in arts education and mentor ship to the students and community they serve. Their theatre Arts playwriting and performance programs are tailored to each group they work with, and they truly care about each child’s wellbeing and growth. I have been both an audience member at a performance by young women at a juvenile detention center and a volunteer with their students at a high school in south LA, and have seen firsthand how their programs help students to grow not only artistically but in their confidence and ability to collaborate with others. I am familiar with many different arts organizations in the Los Angeles area, and the work The Unusual Suspects does with students and community members is unique and truly powerful.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have worked in the nonprofit sector more than two decades. The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company is hands-down one of the most mission-driven, fiscally-responsible organizations with which I have been involved. The dedication of the staff, board, advisory council, teaching artists, and volunteers to bring theatre-arts education and mentorship to traditionally-marginalized youth and families throughout Los Angeles is bar none.

In LA, schools rarely offer arts programs. The Unusual Suspects brings arts and invaluable mentorship to kids who wouldn't normally have this opportunity - including young men and women in foster care and juvenile-detention centers.

I truly feel blessed to work with and be part of this community.