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Worcester Youth Speak Honestly, an Inside Scoop with Alyssa

Alyssa Morales UnityMike Photography

Brand Ambassador, Alyssa Morales, shares their perspective as an alumni of the WYSH project running July 12-13 at the Jean McDonough Arts Center.

When we think of summer, what comes to mind? Trips to the beach, sweltering heat, and summer reading assignments all pop up, but for students like me, it means the WYSH project. The WYSH project, which stands for Worcester Youth Speak Honestly, is an original piece of theatre written by the students who take part in it. The show shines a light on the experiences of youth in the city of Worcester and for many, including me, it serves as an introduction to the arts that they might never have had access to otherwise. 
 
I joined the WYSH project in its second year in 2022. I was a senior at Worcester Technical High School at the time and had never had any sort of formal acting training, if any at all. The WYSH project was my first time ever feeling like the experiences I had were important enough to be shared. There are few places I’ve found where you can perform your own original work and even fewer centered around your personal life experience.  
 
WYSH as a program starts with a three-day retreat in April focused on getting to know each other and figuring out what topics are going to be discussed in the show. We write prompts, create tableaux, draw, and create in any way we felt inspired. After the retreat, weekly rehearsals begin guided by project facilitators, Sharon Hart and Saharra Dixon. Each rehearsal day is four hours in length. By the time WYSH reaches performance week, we’ve worked on this show together for about 100 hours.  

After the performances are over, we still have so much to look forward to at The Hanover Theatre. We get scholarships to take classes at the conservatory, have meet ups to see the Broadway shows, and we get to do a shortened version of the original show on a tour for the Worcester Public Schools! The scholarships cover one full-year dance class or two acting classes, one in the fall and one in the spring. The Worcester Public Schools tour is one of the most rewarding aspects of the program because we get to perform for our own peers. It’s a time for us to spark the conversations we’re usually too scared to have in everyday life. 

A massive part of what makes WYSH so empowering is the audience. After every performance, during the talkback we would have people our age telling us that they’ve never had the courage to talk about the issues we do. Or we have older generations telling us that our show helped them understand their family members better. This year’s WYSH project has so much to say, if you’re ready to listen. 

Please join me for the WYSH project at the following upcoming performances. You can RSVP today! 

WYSH 2024 company UnityMike Photography

Friday, July 12 at 7 PM 

Saturday, July 13 at 2 PM and 7 PM 

All performances will be held at the Jean McDonough Arts Center in the Brickbox Theater.  

The WYSH Project is supported and funded in part by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency, the Greater Worcester Community Foundation and the Worcester Arts Council, a local agency.