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Matrix Theatre Company

2730 Bagley St
Detroit, Michigan 48216

Andrea Scobie

By Amanda Lewan
September 27, 2013

All the world’s a stage, but without a voice youth are unable to express themselves to the world. The Matrix Theatre Company in Southwest Detroit knows the importance of self-expression. They’ve built a strong heritage aimed at empowering youth to address social issues through performance theatre. They give youth a comfortable place to form a community around social change.
The Theatre is a stage for both youth and adults in Detroit, but one that offers innovative programs aimed at educating youth in the arts. Andrea Scobie, Director of Education at the Matrix Theatre, coordinates all of the youth programs and after-school programs on theatre.
Andrea first joined the Matrix Theatre in in 2005, bringing with her a background in musical performance. Born in Detroit, she grew up and attended school in Royal Oak and then Oakland University to study theatre. She became involved as a performer for the Theatre, but this role quickly turned into the role of an educator as she began teaching workshops. She transitioned to a full time role in 2010.
"I’ve been involved in theatre for as long as I can remember," Andrea says. "There’s a lot of skills that go along from learning theatre. Besides the fact that kids can build relationships and make good friends, a lot of kids say it’s their second family."
Family is a strong word for the youth at the Matrix Theatre, but not unjustified. Youth are taught to write plays about social issues they experience, and using the theatre as a way to express issues has empowered and changed the lives of many kids who come to the program.
For example, one young girl lived in Detroit but traveled to the suburbs for school. She was the only one of Mexican heritage in her class and was bullied mercilessly. The theatre’s program helped her write and produce a story on culture and identity. Andrea said the play gave her the tools to talk about her pain and address it.
"I think she was able to learn how to stand up and gain confidence and change the point of view of kids at her school," says Andrea. "We impact the community by really encouraging youth to be their own solutions."
Youth ages five to eighteen write all of their own work, and past plays have addressed social issues like ethnicity and culture, gender and sexuality, and online privacy. There aren’t many topics they avoid, though teachers at the Matrix Theatre give guidance on how in-depth the plays go. During their summer camp students have a more condensed timeline of two weeks to create and execute their play.
"It’s an interesting process to see the kids work. The kids write all of their own original plays. They are trained in a collaborative process with teachers learning about dialogue, setting, and everything else," says Andrea. "It greatly impacts their literacy and performance in schools."
It takes courage to write and courage to act when the world is watching your moves on stage. While the program teaches confidence, courage, and creativity, the most important take away is an attitude to solve problems. Andrea wants kids to know that they can do something about the social issues they may face in Detroit.
"We want them to be challenged and know that they can be a part of change," Andrea says. "When there’s this or that issue, we want them to ask: How are you going to be a part of the solution? How can you help other people learn that they can be a part of the solution as well?"
Teaching youth to share their voices in a safe community is a first step towards taking positive action, a step that has a positive impact for our community. 

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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