Alumni Theater Company sets the stage for new season: Black teens and tweens are invited to audition

Photo above courtesy of Alumni Theater Company.

Alumni Theater Company (ATC) is looking ahead to its 2023-24 season and inviting students who will be entering grades 6-12 next year to audition for their Teen and Young Artist Ensembles. 

Auditions will take place on Sunday, April 23, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bill Nunn Black Box Theater, located at 6601 Hamilton Avenue. Auditioners are expected to stay for the full three hours and should prepare a song from any genre that is up to two minutes long. Auditioners will also be given a scene to work on at the audition and will also work with ATC employees on writing, singing, acting and dancing. 

Anyone interested in learning more about ATC and how to register for auditions can visit their website You can also check out past performances on their YouTube channel.  

Now in its 15th season, ATC is a nonprofit organization that launched in 2008 with the mission to create bold theatrical work that gives a fresh voice to the experience of young Black artists and highlights their rich contribution to our community. The ATC staff provides year-round individualized, intense artistic guidance for talented, committed youth in a highly creative, challenging and supportive setting.

Photo courtesy of Alumni Theater Company.

ATC ensemble members get the opportunity to develop skills beyond performing. These students create their own content, typically by collaborating together to write, choreograph, and perform shows, all with guidance from ATC’s founder and current artistic director Hallie Donner, programming director and an ATC ensemble alumnus Shae Wofford, and Bridgette Perdue, who serves as music director and executive director.

For young people intimidated by the prospect of crafting a show from scratch, Donner offers reassurance: “You don’t have to be strong in every area of performance, but you must be committed to doing your best. It’s all about being a team, having a positive attitude, and being willing to try new things. Our goal is to help young performers at all levels grow in their talent.”

ATC ensemble member Nia Woodson, a senior from Pittsburgh CAPA, tells Kidsburgh it was a bit nerve-wracking to wait to hear back after her audition. She also shared that she initially felt a little out of place, because the majority of folks in the ensemble had already worked with each other before she joined. But that feeling didn’t last long. “By the end of my first show,” she said, “I felt like I was family here.”

Winchester Thurston senior Andres Javier Drahnak joined ATC when he was in seventh grade and he echoes Woodson’s experience. “Coming into my first show was exciting because everyone was really inviting. I was scared,” he said, “but I got less scared as time went on.” 

Photo courtesy of Alumni Theater Company.

Drahnak’s years of collaborating and performing with fellow members of the ATC ensembles prepared him to write and direct his first original short play, “Yesterday I Saw a Dead Cat,” as part of ATC’s Senior Projects performances this past March. “Because the members of ATC always do a lot of the work to create the shows and also be in the show, it gave me a good idea of how to make something that would work,” he said.

Before joining ATC, Drahnak had only performed in musicals alongside predominantly white cast mates, which made the Blackness of his ATC experience especially important and refreshing. Perdue explains that elevating the experiences of Black youth is integral to the work of ATC.

“Centering the experience of Black teens growing up in our city is a big focus of our work. Our students are incredibly passionate about using their art to be heard. They speak boldly, confronting racism and injustice. They call into question the world around them and refuse to accept the status quo. For them, ATC is a space free from stereotypes and otherism, where they can openly share their journey through adolescence, and in turn, create art that speaks to their peers and community at large,” Perdue said.

Woodson says that her ATC experience prepared her to trust herself and believe in her work. Now, she has more confidence and doesn’t second-guess her writing or performance abilities.

She offers this advice for prospective and incoming ATC members: “Always perform! I know some young artists who get discouraged if they don’t get compliments during the notes and reviews, but you should always perform to the best of your ability. You never know who’s watching and how it will prepare you moving forward.”