“YouthWorks gives me a chance to be myself and to create
something like nothing else.”

-YouthWorks Participant

“YouthWorks has given my son a community of artists who nurture and appreciate him.”
-YouthWorks Parent

Established in 1991 (formerly Kids Outback), YouthWorks is an annual opportunity for young people (ages 8 – 18) to imagine, create, and perform their own original performance work at BAX. A personal and artistic journey happens for each young artist in the program that begins at the orientation meeting and continues through to the performance. Participants come in from all over the City, most with nothing more than the desire to create “something,” and set themselves to work. Professional artists work as coaches to guide these aspiring young artists through a 6-week rehearsal process. Past performances have included plays, dances, poetry, comedy sketches, original songs and a movie short. The culminating performance is a full staged production with each young artist making decisions about lighting, sound, costume and props, supported by our technical staff. The production takes place in the BAX Theater space to packed audiences at the end of January or in early February. Participation in this program is free for any young artist, living in the greater New York City area, who is interested in making performance work.

YouthWorks Director, Donna Costello, (In-house teacher, YouthWorks Director) is a dance artist whose interests lie in the body as a deep vessel of expression and connection with intention to create brave spaces to make that happen.  Donna has performed with a multitude of artists in her 20 years in NYC, with her most recent projects including works by: Carrie Ahern, Kelly Bartnik, Abigail Levine, jill sigman/thinkdance, Vicky Shick and  Nick Cave (visual artist).  Donna is a longtime BAX educator who started as a volunteer of the Youthworks program.  She has lead the program for over a decade and works closely with the participants and the professional artist volunteers to provide support and guidance. She facilitates the orientation workshops, organizes the coaching sessions and produces the final performance in the BAX Theater. She is assisted by the Assistant Director, the Community Engagement intern and by BAX’s Education, Marketing, and Production departments.

Assistant Director, Kelindah Schuster, (In-house teacher, Technical Director) is a performance artist, rad educator, lighting designer, and theater-maker. As a nonbinary drag artist, Kelindah performs in queer nightlife as “Theydy bedbug,” and this year was awarded the title “Mx. Brooklyn 2019″ after winning an annual drag performance competition Mr(s). BK. They produce and MC a monthly show “Wannabe: between genders and genres” which showcases gender nonconforming performers at the intersections of art forms and identities. At BAX they teach drag performance, drama, and visual art workshops and believe that gender affirming art education makes space to imagine anew, nourish community, and express differences with joyful authenticity as a tool to reshape the future.

“I am always struck by the transformative journey I witness in the work and the young artist when I see their ideas fully developed into a staged work.”
-Donna, YouthWorks Director


YouthWorks Orientation: Saturday, December 7, 2019

Coaches Orientation: 2:00-4:00pm
Learn more about YouthWorks, develop tools for working with youth in a creative process, and meet participating teen artists.

Teen Orientation (ages 13+): 3:00-4:30pm
Join us for an informal peer workshop to discuss your performance ideas, meet coaches and plan.

Mandatory Orientation for young artists (ages 8-12) and families: 4-5:30pm
Learn more about the program and how to participate.

Coaching and Rehearsal Sessions:

Sunday afternoons, from 2:30-5:30pm
December 22, 2019, January 5, 12, 19, & 26, 2020
Lighting Workshop: Sunday, January 12, 2020, from 11:30-1:30pm
Bonus Workshop on MLK Day: Monday, January 20, 2020, from 2:30-5:30pm

Tech  Rehearsals: January 30 & 31, 2020, from 4:00-9:00pm – participants will be assigned a 1/2 hour time slot

YouthWorks Performances: Saturday, February 1, 2020 at 7pm and Sunday, February 2, 2020 at 5pm

Saturday (7:00pm show) – 4:30pm artist call, 5:00 dress rehearsal
Sunday (5:00pm show) – 2:30pm artist call, 3:00 dress rehearsal

Tickets for YouthWorks Performances are $5 at the door. 

About Orientation

YouthWorks begins with an Orientation Meeting involving young artists, parents and coaches. This hands-on workshop starts the artistic journey for each young artist. Within an experiential format, we clarify the structure, outline the logistics, and answer any questions about the YouthWorks program. We hope that during this initial meeting, ideas are sparked and the young artists can begin to think about how to bring the ideas to life inside the creative journey that is YouthWorks. These moments in the video exemplify the opening circle of the Orientation meeting and what might ignite an idea and how to keep it growing.

“Orientation Day, as the young artists and their parents continued to flow into the room, my excitement continued to build. Looking around the room filled with familiar faces and those who has come to BAX for the first time, I was in awe of what an amazing and unique experience YouthWorks is.” 
-Sarah Marcus, 2010 Festivals Coordinator

 About the Process

“The professional coaches gave me different ways to look at my work”
-YouthWorks Participant

Sunday afternoons are set aside for Coaching and Rehearsal sessions at BAX that the young artists can attend to develop their original work. During the Coaching and Rehearsal sessions, the young artists share BAX studio space with others to create and rehearse their pieces. Professional artists are there as coaches to support the young artists by providing feedback, asking questions, witnessing the work and guiding them along their creative process.

“My favorite thing was that I got to choose what I wanted to do…”
-YouthWorks Participant

Sometimes an artist’s inspiration is very personal.

It might be a story or experience that has changed his or her life and perspective. Mary Jane, a 10 year old participant, had one of those experiences not too long ago, and she decided she wanted to write a song about it. YouthWorks gave her an opportunity to express her emotions creatively. The product was a heartfelt song, written, arranged and performed by Mary Jane.
Other times, the creative inspiration is a little simpler.

“My sister has always wanted to teach me ballet, and I always wanted to teach my sister skateboarding.”
– Lena, age 9
Collaboration between families is a big part of YouthWorks.

Eleanor has been a YouthWorks participant for 3 years, and this year she brought her younger sister Carla along. One of the integral parts of their process was learning to work together and communicate with each other.
As the creative process continues, more elements, like props, enter the picture.

For some artists, props are the focal point of their work, the vital link to their story. Such was the case with young artists Lissa and Lily, both 10 years old. They worked extensively to find the perfect prop for their dance, “The Fight.”
Once the idea begins to become reality, it’s time for rehearsal.

And before any rehearsal it is imperative to warm up. Mary Jane learned some very helpful vocal warm ups from one of our coaches, Heidi McClure.

“I learned that you have to speak clearly and project your voice.” -YouthWorks Participant
Often, rehearsal is simply about repetition and practice.

Miu (15), Kana (12), Nigel (10), and Bryan (10) had no problem practicing their choreography again and again for their memory and clarity of movement.

“I learned about letting breath influence my movement.”
-YouthWorks Participant
As the performance approaches, young artists design lights for their work.

With BAX Technical Director, Emma Rivera, each young artist designs lights for their creations by discussing things like mood, environment and moments that they may want to highlight in their work. Enora, Liat, and Maya, for example, had a clear vision of what lights would create the alien world for their original play.


 About the Coaches

“I found myself admiring the imaginative visions, humor and intellectual rigor that I witnessed in the young artists’ processes.”
-YouthWorks Coach


YouthWorks fulfills a primary goal of BAX Youth Education by creating opportunities for exchange between students, professional artists and the greater community of BAX and beyond. YouthWorks is inclusive to professional artists with a range of experience in various artistic disciplines including dance, theater, music and video. BAX champions diversity and looks for volunteers that value different approaches to making art, the varying stages of development in a process and the space for multiple perspectives when it comes to making original work. Coaches are integral to the YouthWorks experience and the coach’s role is primarily about guiding the young artists through their creative process. Observation, Inquiry, and Critical Response are tools at hand for the coaches to use to support the original works from the early stages of development to a shareable work of art ready for performance.

“I loved seeing kids create. They are unencumbered by the restrictions that adults layer upon their aesthetics.”
– YouthWorks Coach

“I found coaching to be an excellent reminder for the practice in the art of entering into another’s world through modes of listening and empathy.”
– YouthWorks Coach

Thank you to our 2019 YouthWorks Coaches:
(BAX Faculty in bold)

Adelaide Matthew Dicken

Andrew T. Carter

Ashley Brown

Becca Bernard

Ben Weber

Billy Schultz

Carrie Stern

Dana Jacks

Dani Criss

Dean Moss

Dot Armstrong

Emily Wexler

Jennifer O’Donnell

Jessie Winograd

Jon Wan/Kiko Soiree

Julia Sharpe-Levine

Junior Johnson

Kendra Schwartz

Kyle Marra

Lise Brenner

Marija Krolica

Maryanne Chaney

Megan Wright (Stephen Petronio Company)

Rachel Levens

Rebekah Bono

Sarah Dahnke

Sophie Tibiletti


About Parent Involvement

“I wanted my child to have space to create and perform her own ideas.”
-YouthWorks Parent

As a parent, you are supporting the work of your young artist. Depending on the age of your child, you may act as an organizer by setting up outside rehearsal dates or simply getting them to BAX for the Coaching & Rehearsal sessions. As a parent, you may also find yourself in the role of a coach if you are witness to any of the creative process. For some, you may even be cast in the play or skit! Finally, we hope you will be in the audience for the final performance of the works. Seeing what your child created and watching them perform may surprise you.

“I love seeing how comfortable my daughter has become onstage.”
-YouthWorks Parent


About the Performance

“A highlight was seeing my son’s project come to life and watching
he performances as a whole.”
-YouthWorks Parent

The process continues through informal showings at the Coaching and Rehearsal sessions as the young artists prepare for performance. At the end of the 6-week process the works are shared with an audience in a fully staged production that has the same standards as the professional artists that present work at BAX throughout the year. The young artists work with a lighting designer, a stage manager and Marketing to create a press release and program.

During the final week, each work that is created has a technical rehearsal for spacing and lighting decisions and then a dress rehearsal with all of the performers in the show. The dress rehearsal is a highlight for the young artists since it is at this time that they see all of the works and understand how each individual piece helps to create the full evening. There is always a vast array of pieces: dramatic, comedic, theatrical, movement based, solos, group work and duets. The one thing that comes through in every piece is the unique voice of the young artists. It is an incredible sight to witness the idea of a young person fully developed in a staged work. The experience of an audience member at one of these shows is rarely forgotten. It reminds all of us that for every performance there is a lot of commitment, decision-making, imagination and most of all hard work that happens before that final show. YouthWorks celebrates the entire process!

“The show can only be this strong with the power of everyone and the support you
have for each other.”

Donna Costello, YouthWorks Director