In late spring of 2017, the Justice Organization of Youth (JOY) reached out to HWS Associate Professor of Theatre and Mosaic NY Artistic Director Heather May for advice and feedback on the organization’s original theatre piece created by JOY’S high school students.
This collaboration culminated in multiple shared workshops and performances between JOY and Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ social justice theatre company Mosaic NY. Building on its ongoing commitment to area youth, HWS established the Mosaic NY Fellowship this year.
“The students in JOY are very similar to those I have the great pleasure of working with in Mosaic: passionate about using their voices and artistry to inspire change in their communities; creative; joyful; and supportive,” says May. “I am thrilled to be able to build on this collaboration through the Mosaic NY Fellow.”
Luis Figueroa ’18, the inaugural Fellow, is the longest-serving member of Mosaic NY. “The Fellowship is an opportunity to address a variety of social justice issues through theatrical means. I couldn’t be more excited,” says Figueroa, who majored in theatre and completed a minor in dance. “Working with JOY will allow me to teach and guide high school students who are interested in social justice theatre and further develop the relationship between the two companies.”
JOY, a division of the Rural and Migrant Ministry, offers performing arts opportunities to local students as a means of creating positive change. “Luis brings in exactly what we were hoping for: creativity, enthusiasm and a commitment to social justice,” says Gabriela Quintanilla, JOY Coordinator and Western New York Associate Coordinator for the Ministry. “We are grateful that HWS has agreed to partner with us to further strengthen our work.” Choosing three social justice issues to focus on each year, the group writes and performs their own plays based on their personal experiences. JOY also facilitates college visits and offers help throughout the college application process.
In addition to his work with JOY, Figueroa will develop new marketing and outreach materials for Mosaic NY and serve as May’s assistant director and collaborator for the company’s rehearsals. The fellowship is a one-year appointment that is open to a graduate of HWS and former Mosaic NY member within five years of graduation.
During his time at HWS, Figueroa was also a member of the Phoenix Players and appeared in several campus productions, most recently Waiting for Godot. A board member of the Pride Alliance, he previously worked with youth through the Geneva Theatre Guild’s Nancy Curvin Playground Players summer program.