Welcome to Upstart Crow Studios. My daughter and I founded Upstart Crow Studios after being discouraged by the number of kids in the public school system that went unnoticed because their test scores didn't qualify them as "talented and gifted." They may be different, but certainly not less. We believe that all children are talented but need encouragement to find their own voice.
Who we are...a youth performing arts company. A small non-profit in Eugene, Oregon driven to share the joy and passion of live theatre with young people. Why Upstart Crow? A jealous critic of Shakespeare called him "an upstart crow, made beautiful with our feathers, believes he can bombast out a verse as the best of you." Crows are seen as ordinary black birds. Well, that's who our kids are; everyday kids, ordinary, until they step out on that stage and prove to the world and to themselves, there is more to them than meets the eye.
From humble beginnings...we started in an old cafeteria building. We worked for months with kids from the Serbu juvenile detention center to clean up the building and make a theatre out of little more than a rundown space and these give kids a chance to express themselves in a positive way.
From church gyms, basements, garages and even an Alzheimer's unit in a retirement community, Upstart Crow went anywhere we could find space to work our magic. The kids performed original musical theatre skits in the schools, teaching children about relevant issues; bullying, social media, body image and self-esteem. We started with 10 kids and have grown to working with more than 300 kids a year. We needed a bigger space!
Finally, after years of searching, we found the right building located in the low rent district — perfect for a Crow on a mission. Slowly but surely we have transformed the space to add the Crows Nest, a community theatre. After six years, we have finally painted the last wall and turned on the street sign to let everyone know...this is home! We're so close to being finished but we need a little more help to finish the Crows Nest Theatre.
Our mission...no child turned away. Teaching kids the power of positive expression. Making sure every kid recognizes his or her value to the whole. No one more important than the other. Learning to respect their differences, building on their strengths and weaknesses. The unique model at the Crow is placing kids in a position of success rather than the typical theatre model of elimination. We make this happen by finding creative ways to include rather than exclude. This is what it means to be a Crow!
The Ask...here's what we need. A door! We need better access for wheelchairs and audience members. Right now, access to the theatre is up and down two flights of stairs or through classrooms. For some, this is a challenge. The only door into the theatre is next to the stage. Putting in a new door also means we can finally have a side wing for the kids to enter and exit the stage.
Speaking of the stage...we desperately need a stage floor. The current floor covering is bubbling and peeling up, causing a trip hazard for the kids (see ugly grey floor in the video). We have dancers and actors (80 plus kids) filling the taped up stage floor on a regular basis. The worn floor is difficult to move set pieces off and on from backstage.
And backstage...the stage crew can't hear or see what is happening on stage. The sound booth has no way to communicate with the crew about set changes or cast exits and entrances. With a monitor system and head sets for the backstage manager and booth techs, we can control the action on stage setting a professional tone for the cast (it's a bit like herding cats). As kids continue through the program, the new equipment offers an opportunity to learn about both sides of the stage, as they run the booth with lights and sound.
Please help us finish this project so all Crow kids have a safe, functional creative space to pursue their passion and have their voices heard.
"Every small voice that comes to a murmur is really a venturing SHOUT!"...Chandra Coleman, mother of 4 and grandmother of 11 and proud sponsor of Upstart Crow Studios.
Risks and challenges
The challenges the Crow faces are somewhat similar to Shakespeare or maybe Horton hearing the Whos. This is a small company with a big heart. "We are here. We are here. We are here." But there are other theatre companies in town that are much bigger and have a mightier presence than the Crow.
We have the volunteers standing ready to complete the project but we have the challenge of finding local businesses to help with donations of materials. With the highest unemployment rates in the state, our community has been hit hard.
We can build this theatre project with the hope that they will come and recognize the talented young people that grace our stage. We have scrimped and saved every dollar to get this far to keep the lights on and the doors open. As Directors, we put in long hours without pay to make sure the kids who need this program the most, get the opportunity they deserve.
We took a huge risk last year and produced an original British musical with over 80 kids at the performing arts center. The kids were thrilled to see their name on the big marquee downtown. It was a huge success with both shows sold out and playing to over 1,000 audience members. It was a sink or swim moment but it was the catalyst to make this plea through Kickstarter to help us finish the theatre.
Is this a risk? Possibly, but it is one we continue to fight for, and we believe we are ready to let everyone know that YES! We are here! And we plan to stick around.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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