Laurie Lathem is a theater artist with a love for teaching people of all ages. She was the Director of the Moment Work Institute at Tectonic Theater Project, where she oversees programs in devising theater in New York City public schools, and in universities and high schools across the country and the world, including Hanoi, Vietnam; Edinburgh, Scotland and Beirut, Lebanon.
Before moving back home to Brooklyn, New York, Laurie was the Artistic Director of the Virginia Avenue Project, an arts mentoring program for underserved youth in Santa Monica, California. There, she produced 3-4 original theater productions per year with kids and professional theater artists in varying combinations. Laurie also launched collaborations with other arts and cultural organizations, and designed, initiated and taught playwriting residencies in local public schools.
Laurie served as the founding Creative Director of the Berkeley Repertory School of Theatre, where she designed the curriculum and hired staff for a theater arts school for children and adults at the renowned Berkeley Repertory Theater.
A passion for giving the tools of artistic expression to young people led Laurie to teach playwriting and creative writing to incarcerated youth at Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall with InsideOut Writers and at Alameda Country Juvenile Hall while at Berkeley Rep.
Laurie has taught workshops and classes to kids and adults of all ages and abilities, including the wildly successful solo performance workshop, Go Solo, at Highways Performance Space, Tall Tales, a creative writing class for 3rd-5th graders, Playmaking at the Park Century school for students with Learning Differences, and film making to juniors and seniors at Dorsey High in Los Angeles.
#WishYouWereHere was a Playmaking production at Virginia Avenue Project of eight short plays written by Project kids, performed by professional actors, and directed by Laurie. Playmaking is a program in which students are taken through the process of creating characters and writing scenes that result in short plays. Characters are rarely human, and are often pencils, tornadoes, tigers, clouds thumbtacks and violins. In this clip, two brothers who also happen to be violas, share a music case that is too small and long for a bigger house for their family.
Also at Virginia Avenue Project, Laurie wrote the play, And Then the Weather Got Crazy, a collaboration between VAP and Contra Tiempo Urban Latin Dance Company.
During weekly classes taught by VAP staff and Contra Tiempo dance instructors, students developed original characters and a storyline that was based on a fictional decades-long Los Angeles drought, followed by torrential rains, followed by sunny skies. Laurie then wrote the script, and the play was rehearsed and performed at the Miles Playhouse in Santa Monica in 2014.
Here is a clip:
Laurie is particularly proud of having launched a series of innovative collaborations and residencies in her time at Virginia Avenue Project. These include Playmaking at John Adams Middle School, Playmaking at Olympic High School, a continuation high school in Santa Monica, and a playwriting residency at Santa Monica high School in which Holocaust survivors visited the school and spoke with students. The students then wrote a play based on the true life stories of the survivors, it was directed by Laurel Ollstein and performed by professional actors. The play, Reading Through, centered on a narrator who is an old book of stories sitting on a shelf.
All plays written in school residencies were performed by professional actors for the entire school community in a staged reading.
Among other programs Laurie designed and initiated while at Virginia Avenue Project were PlayWorks, a summer camp incorporating stage combat, mask making and the creation of characters based on Greek myths; Word! a drop-in creative writing class; and StoryLab, a two week workshop in which students created original characters and dialogue, resulting in a workshop performance.
Laurie was especially proud of creating the vision for and opening the Virginia Avenue Project Arts Center for Youth in the 18th Street Arts Center.
Privately, Laurie has taught many writing and performance classes and workshops to kids and adults.