As a teacher, comedian and activist, it was only natural for 2010 OSI-Baltimore fellow, Koli Tengella to get the idea to use youth and theater with a filmmaking component to make a difference in his East Baltimore community.
With the help of local partners, Tengella turned his idea into reality and has developed theater troupes featuring 20 middle-grade students and adults receiving government assistance in order to raise awareness of social issues affecting many local, national and even international communities. He has also used theater to promote positive self-image, academic achievement and community involvement in the lives of the participants who become the cast and crew of his productions.
Growing up in an environment much like the one’s of the residents he encounters through his programs, Tengella says he used theater to help him overcome obstacles and hardships in his own life, and knows how powerful theater and film can be.
“People, who might have viewed themselves in a negative way before, now see themselves as actors or directors and get a sense that they are more than their environment may make them seem,” Tengella says.
Not only are the youth and adults involved with Tengella’s productions getting an opportunity to work on their own lives, but are also making an impact on the lives of people in the audience.
“Film, theater and media are powerful tools to educate folk and teaching how to live a healthy in this way could save a person’s life,” Tengella says.
Aside from entertaining and educating, Tengella also makes sure his productions are a resource for everyone involved.
“We want people to walk away knowing that no matter what negative situation they are in; there is a person or service available to help them.”