America’s dramatically changing demographics inspired New WORLD Theater to launch one of their signature programs, a socially-engaged and youth-driven theater project addressing identity and injustice.
Demographers at the turn of the millennium expected to see a dramatic shift by mid-century. People of color would soon be the majority in the United States, experts projected. The news precipitated a multi-year youth arts initiative at New WORLD Theater in Amherst, Massachusetts, that brought together professional artists, area youth communities, scholars, and community activists. Their critical inquiries into the issues compelled by changing demographics took shape during Project 2050, a retreat at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, that resulted in civic dialogue and original performances. Participants imagined a near future when it will become imperative to address racial power imbalance and to move beyond the framework of multiculturalism.
Mass Humanities funded the project’s first year and supported the retreat as well as related fees for participating scholars and artists. Intergenerational, interracial, and cross-cultural participants found common ground through playwriting, poetry, breakdancing, drumming, beatboxing, lyricism, singing, songwriting, stepping, and visual art. Scholars hosted educational sessions each day.
From this initial retreat, New WORLD Theater developed a program that would secure them a place in the annals of American theater history. Artists, scholars, and cultural organizers still look to Project 2050 as a bold and progressive cultural experiment, one that still reverberates within the changing cultural politics of the 21st century.