For over 30 years, New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) has been the Bay Area’s premiere queer and allied theatre arts institution. Still led by its Founding Artistic Director Ed Decker, NCTC is an integral part of the region’s cultural landscape through its ongoing commitment to youth arts education and LGBT artistic representation. NCTC’s mission is to champion innovative, high-quality productions and educational theatre experiences for youth, artists, and the queer and allied communities to effect personal and societal growth, enlightenment, and change. NCTC accomplishes this goal through its six programs: Mainstage, the Youth Conservatory, Emerging Artists, Family Matinees, the New Play Development Lab, and YouthAware.
Each of the six programs aims to support emerging artists and instill confidence in youth. Mainstage allows individuals to develop queer and allied theatre productions that voice, entertain, and promote exploration in order to celebrate diversity and foster communication. The Youth Conservatory provides theater training to empower youth to express themselves, celebrate what makes them unique as individuals, and gain self-esteem. The Emerging Artists program provides one residency each year at NCTC to develop and produce new work by emerging actors, singers, and writers. The program continues to provide support to artists after the end of their residency where possible, helping artists to form connections to further spread their work. Family Matinees produce plays targeting young audiences between the ages of 4-8 and their families. The New Play Development Lab, established in 2002, was created to commission and develop new work to expand the canon of LGBT-themed plays, give voice to new and diverse playwrights, and add to the list of over 40 world premieres NCTC has produced since it was founded.
The sixth program, YouthAware, was created in 1986 and uses theatre as a platform to help schools and communities create a dialogue about issues that might otherwise be difficult to approach in a classroom setting. Past performances have explored issues like HIV and AIDS education, peer pressure, substance abuse, dating violence, homophobia, stereotypes, racial and gender inequality, and school safety through stories and characters that are developed to resonate closely with diverse audiences. Annually, YouthAware tours a repertoire of free, age-appropriate theatre productions to over 15,000 K-12 students in the Bay Area.
(Photo Credit: New Conservatory Theatre Center)
With a grant from the Central Valley Community Foundation, NCTC brought YouthAware performances to Fresno County high schools at no cost during the 2015-16 school year. Over 550 students at Edison High School, Sunnyside High School, the School of Unlimited Learning (SOUL), and Fresno’s Juvenile Justice Center attended NCTC’s YouthAware production of Dis/Connected. Dis/Connected explores the pervasiveness of cyber-bullying among young people, unpacking the dynamics of friendship, peer pressure, and diversity within the context of the highly technological era in which we live. Prior to each performance, educators received a study guide introducing the play’s subject matter. Immediately following each performance, YouthAware’s actor-educators led discussions with students about their thoughts, feelings, and questions. Teachers also received a post-performance guide to facilitate continued dialogue and reflection in the classroom.
YouthAware’s actor-educators in Dis/Connected. (Photo Credit: New Conservatory Theatre Center)
(Photo Credit: New Conservatory Theatre Center)
With the grant from the Central Valley Community Foundation, NCTC also brought their Pride on Tour program to Fresno County. Pride on Tour, which ran from 2012-2016, sought to increase LGBT and allied visibility, promote dialogue, and enhance cross-cultural understanding by bringing mainstage LGBT-themed productions to communities in Central and Northern California. In Fresno County, Pride on Tour collaborated with multiple regional organizations, including CVCF, to bring productions of The Bus, Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, and Katya: A One Night Stand to nearly 1,000 audience members. All proceeds from Pride on Tour’s performances were re-granted to Gay Central Valley. “It’s often difficult in Fresno and the Central Valley to bring people together to fight for equality and awareness,” began Chris Jarvis, then-Director of Gay Central Valley. “NCTC has excelled at doing so[.] They bring experience and connections often not possible in the Central Valley.”
NCTC Founding Artistic Director Ed Decker (left) with Chris Jarvis, former Director of Gay Central Valley. (Photo Credit: New Conservatory Theatre Center)
To learn more about the New Conservatory Theatre Center and their programs, please visit their website. Keep scrolling for more photos from productions from NCTC’s YouthAware and Pride on Tour programs!
Pride on Tour’s production of The Bus. (Photo Credit: New Conservatory Theatre Center)
Pride on Tour’s production of Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays. (Photo Credit: New Conservatory Theatre Center)
The Central Valley Community Foundation is proud to support organizations like the New Conservatory Theatre Center and programs like YouthAware and Pride on Tour, which increase visibility, awareness, and education about underserved populations in the Central Valley. For more information on grants from CVCF, please visit the Grants Overview page of our website.