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EJ Bonilla Inspires Stage One and Boston Arts Academy Students

EJ Bonilla Visit 2

Company One (C1) recently had the pleasure of hosting film and television actor, EJ Bonilla, best known for his work on the independent films Four and The House that Jack Built, and who is currently featured in A&E’s Unforgettable. EJ visited Young Achievers Academy (YA) in Mattapan, where C1 facilitates a yearlong residency and touches the lives of more than one hundred students per week with the transformative power of theatre.

Alexandria King, C1 Teaching Artist at Young Achievers, said, “EJ was extremely generous with his time and wisdom. EJ is a true artist and educator.” The day began at YA with an assembly of eager students waiting to meet the rising actor. Opening with a performance of Shakespeare’s famous Hamlet speech, EJ aligned the concept of ‘to be or not to be’ with his personal story of pursuing his dreams.

EJ Bonilla Visit 3EJ grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where the distractions and circumstances of living in a struggling neighborhood often presented roadblocks in his life. It was because of teachers that recognized his unique talents (even landing him a scholarship to ballet school), and a family that rallied around him, that EJ was able to realize his personal mission as an artist and commit to achieving his goals.

Ms. King said the most important lesson EJ wanted students to learn is that, if you commit yourself 100% to what you love, take advantages of the opportunities that come your way as a young person, and resist poor choices, then doors will open for you. EJ shared with students that he was a very shy kid, even pretending to sleep at the lunch table to avoid his peers. It was theatre that enabled him to build confidence and become the dynamic performer that he is today.

Not only did EJ impart sage advice to the aspiring actors of YA, but he also worked closely with students on developing characters and rehearsing scene work from Romeo and Juliet. EJ visited Boston Arts Academy the following day, and collaborated with students from the beginning of the school day until the end of evening rehearsal.


EJ will return in January 2016 to reconnect with YA students and hopefully meet more of the young people that benefit from C1 theatre residencies in Boston Public Schools. On behalf of Company One Theatre, we would like to extend our deepest thanks to EJ Bonilla for the inspirational visit with our students and empowering them to make good choices and pursue their dreams. We would also like to thank Ms. King for inviting EJ into the C1 family.
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Final Meeting for 2014-2015 Teaching Artists

Stage One Teaching Artists take a selfie with their program director.

Stage One Teaching Artists take an end-of-year selfie with their program director.

The Teaching Artists at Company One are the driving force behind our Stage One In-School teaching residencies. You may recognize them from appearances in C1 shows like SHOCKHEADED PETER, DISPLACED HINDU GODS TRILOGY, SPLENDOR, and HOW WE GOT ON, but they’ve spent the entire school year representing C1 and bringing their skills, talent, and artistic leadership to elementary, middle, and high school students all over Boston. Stage One theatre classes cover units like improvisation, playwriting, and social justice, and provide students with the foundational experience of working towards common artistic goals with their peers and using theatre as a tool to explore, represent, and articulate the values of their community. At our last program meeting, the Education staff and Teaching Artists shared some of their most memorable in-school moments and discussed their end-of-year plans for Stage One students. Keep an eye out for future posts of student work, feedback about their experience, and photos from final performances and showcases.

Building Theatrical, Student-Driven Responses to National Events: Part 2

USA Students - Stage One Class 3In Part 1 of this Stage One Blog Post about the February 2015 Urban Science Academy (USA) theatre showcase, Stage One Teaching Artist, James Milord, introduced his high school theatre students to the foundational elements of improvisation, character development, and storytelling. The first quarter of the 2014-2015 school year ended with a showcase at a school-wide assembly of student-written scenes and monologues based on personal experiences. The second quarter began with an intentional look forward towards Black History Month. Class continued in November with plans to read and stage The Good Negro—Tracey Scott Wilson’s 2009 historical fiction play about the personal lives of civil rights leaders in 1960’s Alabama. Milord performed as a cast member in Company One Theatre’s 2010 production, which provided him with an intimate knowledge of the play’s structure and themes, and the ability to pass on this knowledge to his students.

BlackLivesMatter BostonOccurring simultaneously were the developments surrounding the non-indictment decisions for officers involved in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the hundreds of “Hands up, Don’t Shoot/I Can’t Breathe” demonstrations around the world. Milord decided to open up his classroom for the group to speak to each other about how these events impacted their lives as students, artists, and citizens. Milord was initially struck by how passionate and, at times, polarizing the students’ reactions were to these events. The group was notably transparent about what was happening culturally in the world and around them. Milord attributed the students’ progressive dialogue to the safe, liberating environment of his classroom, which functioned more as a theatre ensemble than a traditional academic class.

USA Students - Stage One Class 1The Good Negro was put aside, and the group discussed the meaning behind everyday actions of individuals in the face of adversity. The students’ understanding and appreciation of historic civil rights leaders was strong, but their disconnect with history and frustration with current events contributed to the sentiment that as minority students they were unable to create the change they wanted to see in their communities. Milord guided the students into a discussion about the qualities of leadership that are required to create change. What made the Black Civil Rights leaders successful? What held them back? What faults or frailties did they overcome? What choices did they make that we perceive as the right or wrong decisions?

USA Students - Stage One Class 2The class narrowed their focus and began research on four central figures of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement: Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party, and Bayard Rustin. Students would utilize their collective artistic license to build a scene about each figure, based on a combination of factual evidence and their own fictional embellishments, in order create a portrait of well-developed characters and dramatic narrative arc. Milord encouraged his students to collect research from a diversity of resources, including teachers, family, and community members who could share their personal stories and connections with historical events. After compiling their list of facts and their checking sources, the USA students began to dig deeper, take on the role of these historic figures, and improvise scenes around their personal and public lives.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin

Stage One Blog Post - Black Panther

Black Panther Party