All Star C.A.S.T. (Community Actors & Students’ Theater) is a program for Department of Drama students and people from the community who have special needs, all of whom have a love of acting and the wish to come together to create theater.
Our mission is to provide a safe, non-judgmental space for community actors and drama students to come together to explore their creativity; to encourage communication, group awareness, sensitivity, sharing, confidence, and personal affirmation; and to re-awaken a sense of “play” and joy in acting, when out of the competitive arena.
The group—originally called the Young Actors Workshop—was formed in 1991. Today, All Star C.A.S.T. includes four groups: a young group with actors aged 8-12 years, a middle group with actors aged 18-30 years, and two senior groups. The groups meet for workshops once a week to explore theater games that go toward creating a script, rehearsals, and a production at the end of the semester. The drama students, or facilitators, design the program for the term, guiding the exercises and producing and acting in the show with the community actors.
The workshops have a faculty adviser who meets with the facilitators each week and who oversees the classes and the productions. Drama faculty members also offer important input to guide the students in exercises, and in the first three weeks of the semester, there are workshops for the students to explore different approaches and techniques.
All Star C.A.S.T. serves many purposes.
For the actors:
- The group provides a safe, non-judgmental space to come together to explore creativity.
- It allows the actors to exercise and strengthen their bodies and voices, exploring freedom of breath, expression, and range.
- It encourages communication, group awareness, sensitivity, sharing, confidence, and personal affirmation.
- It gives confidence in performance, and the support of the group.
- The process of performing helps the actors explore different situations and characters using their imaginations and drawing on many different sources.
- The actors discover they can also be leaders.
- This is a place where ideas are always important and creative.
- The workshop gives all the members a lot of fun! It is a place to make friends and feel accepted.
For the facilitators:
- The group provides the drama students with an opportunity to use the work they have explored in their drama classes in a workshop setting. By guiding others, they find that they have a deeper understanding of their own development and needs as actors.
- The facilitators develop a sensitivity to other people—the ability to listen and receive information and to have a sense of observation without criticism.
- The group helps develop clear thinking and speaking.
- It re-awakens their sense of “play” and their joy in creativity, when out of a competitive arena.
- The group provides valuable experience for the young actors, opening up possibilities for future training in drama therapy or drama in education when they graduate.
Some of All Star C.A.S.T.’s past productions include:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Beauty and the Beast
The Phantom of the Opera
Romeo and Juliet
The White Snake
The Wizard of Oz
Several productions of the group also came out of the actors’ writings and improvisations.
People Like Me
People Like Me is a 2010 documentary film about All Star C.A.S.T. (then known as the Young Actors Workshop).
The documentary was created by Larry Elin ’73, Steve Davis, and Douglas Quin, professors in Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. They were awarded a grant from the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) to hire Sujeet Desai, an accomplished musician with Down syndrome and former member of All Star C.A.S.T, to perform new music for the film. Working closely with composer and musician Nathaniel Stein, a senior in VPA, Desai played a variety of instruments for the soundtrack. The film had its red-carpet premiere in Syracuse as part of the University’s Orange Central celebration.
The Taishoff Family Foundation for a generous grant allowing us to expand the program at SU and beyond.
Larry Elin, Doug Quin and Steve Davis for their direction of the documentary film People Like Me.
For more information about All Star C.A.S.T., contact:
Ralph Zito, Professor and Chair
Department of Drama
College of Visual and Performing Arts
820 East Genesee Street
Syracuse NY 13210-1508