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The Living Word Project (LWP) is the resident theater company of Youth Speaks, committed to producing literary performance in the verse of our time. Aesthetically urban, pedagogically Freirean, LWP derives personal performed narratives out of interdisciplinary collaboration. Though its methodology includes dance, music, and film, the company’s emphasis is spoken storytelling. LWP creates verse-based work that is spoken through the body, illustrated by visual and sonic scores, and in communication with the important social issues and movements of the immediate moment. LWP is the theater’s connection from Shakespeare’s quill to Kool Herc’s turntables; from Martha Graham’s cupped hand to Nelson Mandela’s clenched fist: a new voice for a new politic.

As Artistic Director of the Living Word Project, Marc Bamuthi Joseph will work closely with a select group of writers and performers, ranging in age from 19-25, who will make up the primary company. Marc is responsible for overseeing the development of this company’s curatorial and aesthetic vision, as well as guiding the direction toward a specific methodology. Over the course of its season, LWP:

  • Facilitates the creation of unique, cutting-edge work based in the “word,” but not limited by it

  • Formalizes programming for Youth Speaks writers who have demonstrated great promise in our workshops and performance programs, but who have exceeded the bounds of our traditional demographic of 13-19 year olds.

  • Forges new performance language through the access of literary performance, becoming a model for spoken word’s artistic trajectory

  • Provides emerging writers and performers with opportunities for their work to be developed and presented through a guided mentoring process.

  • Provides an apprenticeship program for emerging voices under the guidance of an Artistic Director;

  • Premieres new work from nationally established and emerging voices working in collaboration with LWP to present spoken word and hip hop theater;

  • Educates audiences and the Youth Speaks constituency about the possibilities and artistic merit of new forms and genres of the literary arts as a whole by exposing the process through master classes

  • Endeavors to facilitate the development of a consciousness around the social impact of historical elements that are some how "missing" from traditional high school texts.

By taking multiple views of current situations, we are in the midst of creating our "history " department at Youth Speaks through the Living Word Project, using the model of performed ethnography to develop a consciousness around the social impact of historical elements that are some how "missing" from traditional educational texts. The Living Word Project looks to have, as an end-result, a series of performative non-fiction essays in which the ethos of revolution, color consciousness, or racism are deconstructed as the result of historical facts, rather than inherent or implicit conditions of the human temperament.

Professional artists affiliated with LWP include Kamilah Forbes, Rennie Harris, Adia Whitaker, Sonia Sanchez, Robert Moses, Sarah Jones, Danny Hoch, The Chicano Messengers, Ellen Sebastian Chang, Ursula Rucker, Savage Jazz Dance, John Santos, SF Jazz,  Cultural Odyssey, Me’Shell N’Degeocello, Blackalicious, Jeff Chang, Talib Kweli, Saul Williams, Zion I, Goapele, Ledisi, Marcus Shelby, Ishle Park, Beau Sia, and Robert Henry Johnson. Our process includes engaging young artists who first take part in a mandatory “apprenticeship” – a year-long opportunity to observe and learn the process of developing work from concept to completion. These apprentices will then have an opportunity to create work of their own, under the mentorship of Bamuthi, which together will make up the Living Word Project Repertory. As of 2007, our repertory will include De/Cipher, No Man’s Land, Cause, Word Becomes Flesh, Scourge, The Divine Comedy, The War Peace, and The Breaks.