Listen Up Project to Provide Workshops and Performance Screenings in Schools
MARCH 14, 2022
Berlin, Vermont —Listen Up is kicking off the next phase of the teen-focused social-emotional resilience project as it offers screenings and pop-up workshops in schools and community programs. For the past three years Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont has been involved in the project, an original musical inspired, created and performed by Vermont teens that addresses the many challenges they face, while celebrating their resilience and hope for change.
The show digs deep into the heart of issues Vermont youth are navigating today, including mental health, resilience, racial justice, sexual identity, friendship, love, family, community, social justice and current issues including covid, climate change and the future of Vermont for young people. The play and music are co-written by teens.
After the live performance tour this summer, a film was made of the production and is now available for schools, youth clubs, afterschool programs and community programs for screenings. To date, 30 schools are planning screenings, discussions or workshops, and there are roughly 20 public screenings being scheduled across Vermont communities.
Additionally, a screening is scheduled on April 14 for members of the Vermont Legislature. The production has integrated a card deck of discussion questions with the screening to spark a vibrant discussion after the show and is developing curriculum guides aligned to varying disciplinary content standards from English, or Social Studies, to health, theater, counseling and more.
“I hope that teens who watch Listen Up in their schools walk away with a sense that they can create change—they have agency and voice and are able to connect to each other and adults through speaking the truth about their lives,” says Bess O’Brien, Producer of Listen Up.
Another integrative offering for schools is an intensive workshop to create a mini Listen Up show based on the issues and topics that students want to explore and present to their community. The two week “Listen Up Pop Up Workshops” will offer students the chance to create their own mini Listen Up show. These workshops will engage students in what is important to them in their lives and their communities, creating opportunities to share their stories and make connections with each other over issues that are important to them.
“It has been incredible to support this process and watch it build from the first step of gathering over 900 stories, then watching as they were woven together into a true work of performance art, to now stepping directly into classrooms and community programs for hands-on social-emotional empowerment. This project is inspiring teens across Vermont with the knowledge that they are not alone in their struggles and the opportunities to overcome them are within reach,” says Megan Peek, Director of Community Relations and Health Promotion at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont. “It has been a privilege to support this incredible work.”
“The film is a great opportunity for parents, caregivers, and other adults who work with youth to open a dialogue with them. However, the issues brought up in the musical that youth are struggling with may also feel overwhelming to talk about. There are lots of resources available to help parents get started,” says Mariah Flynn, Director of the Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community. “One Vermont resource I really like is ParentUPvermont.org, a website to help with navigating conversations about substance use. If you have concerns about your youth and want to find some additional supports for them, whether it is about substance use or any other issue, 211.org can be a great place to start. If you call at 2-1-1 they’ll ask you questions about your specific concerns and then help connect you to the appropriate supports near you.”
A powerful piece of the show addresses racism and growing up as a person of color in Vermont. The latest Brave Little State Podcast on VPR is called “Homegoings: Three Vermont teens on power, history and hope” and it features an interview with three youth from the show and the song they wrote called Listen Up.
“Creating something together builds bonding and trust while working with peers. The feeling of creating something together that they can then share with their school is empowering,” says O’Brien. “Teens are in desperate need of expressing themselves and connecting to each other and their communities—this kind of work is critical to social and emotional learning because it lets youth tell their stories in a safe and creative environment.”
Visit https://www.listenupvt.org to learn more about the Listen Up Project and how to bring a screening or pop up workshop to your community.