A View From the Inside - Phantom Projects Theatre Group

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Over the years, various performers of ours have written about their
experience with Phantom Projects, in an effort to garner support from the community.


jocelyn argueta, 2014

At my first audition with Phantom Projects, one of the questions I was asked was “Why Phantom Projects?”

The show was The Center of the Universe
and it was a touring production, performed at numerous middle and high schools. It carried themes of racism, intolerance, bullying, and prejudice. I was excited when I was cast as Maria, a 17 year old whose life was cut short by a senseless act of violence. The most unique part of the show was the discussion that followed every performance. I wasn't sure what to expect and I initially thought our answers would be given to us. I was wrong. The discussion was raw; it was us, young actors, having a conversation with the teen audience about important issues in the world. For once as an actor, I was responsible for more than just my lines and blocking, I had the opportunity to help teenagers make better decisions and realize the impact of their choices. Students approached me after the discussion to ask advice about friends being bullied and it became clear that in no more than 90 minutes, our cast had become more than just actors to the students; we were peers they felt comfortable sharing their stories with, asking for help. It was an experience I was extremely grateful for and I wasn't ready stop.

I was lucky enough to be cast in the next show, No Way to Treat a Lady
. The show addressed teen pregnancy and the potential consequences of teen sex, promoting self control. By this time, I was used to the dynamics of a post-show discussion, but the subject matter made it a different experience. The topics were situations that many teenagers were dealing with, but never had the opportunity, or the courage, to discuss. That was my favorite part of this show. It created a safe and comfortable environment where sensitive topics could be talked about. I was surprised that after the performance, I had parents approach me that could relate to the personal stories I shared on the stage and were going to use them to initiate conversations with their own children.

So, why Phantom Projects?
The obvious answer is that Phantom Projects provides a platform to reach out and make a difference in the lives of our peers. We handle subject matters that are relevant to their lives and the students are receptive because it’s like having a conversation with a friend your own age.

The least obvious answer is that Phantom Projects changed my own life. The actors learn as much, if not more, about these topics than we have time to share with our audience. Nothing teaches you more about the person you want to become, than to put into words the values that are most important to you. The audience hears the show once and we hear about the difference it makes; the actors live the show multiple times and what we learn will stay with us forever.


sienna moffitt, 2012
I was a mere 12-year-old middle school student when I became part of the Phantom Projects Family. Perhaps it was a combination of my adolescent awkwardness and a well-received audition that intrigued them, but I could not be more thrilled and thankful for the opportunities that they have provided me.first two productions were literary-based shows (I played Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird and Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank) through which we presented a more accessible adaptation of literature to over 5,000 teens bussed in to the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.

That same year I was so excited to be cast in the World Premiere of Through These Eyes (Self-image and Eating Disorders). It was during that production that I realized how much I—just one person—can impact my surrounding community.All of Bruce Gevirtzman’s message-based shows present issues that are relevant and relatable to everyone.I have never grown so much as a person as I did during Through These Eyes. It was more than a show, it was a life changing experience, and not just for the audience. Throughout rehearsal we as a cast, had hours upon hours of discussion about the themes in the show, each of us sharing the many ways we related through our personal experiences and journeys.The process is incredibly moving.On show day, we take all we have learned, and share it with the audiences, not only through our characters but as ourselves in the post-show Question and Answer period.

Here we are, 5 years after my first production, about to finish high school and begin my college years at UCLA, and I’m still working with Steve Cisneros, Bruce Gevirtzman, and Phantom Projects Theatre Group. Just a few weeks ago, I was in the most recent production of The Center of the Universe (Bullying, Prejudice, Racism). After the performance, a girl from the audience approached me and poured her heart out to me.She explained that she related to a character in the show because she and her friends had experienced bullying from peers at her school. spoke about what she is currently doing to improve her quality of life, ways to approach the situation, and how there is hope for the future when she is exposed to the larger, more accepting community. It was at that moment when I knew I had influenced at least one person, one young girl with extraordinary potential to grow up and inspire a multitude of people herself.

And that is what Phantom Projects is all about; it’s about reaching and teaching as many people as possible.This past May, as with every show, we made a difference; with your help, we will continue to make a difference.That’s all anybody wants, isn’t it?Please join us in continuing to contribute our bit of goodness to the world, because I’ll tell you first hand, that feeling you get when you know you’ve done something good, it’s pretty phenomenal.

lexington vanderberg, 2011
When my Mom first told me of the audition for No Way to Treat a Lady (Teen Pregnancy Prevention) last year, I really had no idea what to expect. I came in to the audition and read; the rest of the audition was an interview with Steve Cisneros. He wanted to know how I felt and related to the topic at hand and how I would react during the post show discussions. I realized then, this was more than just a show, this was a chance to make an impact on not only my peers, but myself.

I was offered a role, and was able to perform with a wonderful group of young actors. When the show was over I had never felt so rewarded in my life. No other production could compare to how I felt after we answered the last question in the post show discussionsaid goodbye. I knew I had reached at least one person in the audience and that was more than I could ever do being Snow White or Cinderella.

I knew I wanted to be involved with Phantom Projects again…..and again. I applied for The Young Artist Project. Now you may be thinking how does this deal with the issues teens are faced with and how does this change lives? Well it does, just in a different way. Everything Phantom Projects does impacts the actors or audience in some way or another; that's how they function. They give the audience and the actors something to think about when they leave the theatre, everything they do makes you think. The Young Artist Project is extremely unique. It gives teens and young adults the chance of a lifetime. The ability to create a show from scratch, from the ground up. That's an experience some may never get again and Phantom Projects gives that to us.

I really believe in Phantom Project's messages and plan on sticking around for a while. I hope that in the years to come I’ll be able to participate in a touring show which Phantom has not been able to do in many years due to funding. I have heard how enriching they are. To be able to interact with so many kids from all walks of life would be beyond rewarding. Phantom Projects is a unique theatre group that changes and influences the lives of the youth andknow it will continue to grow and thrive in the years to come….with your help.

pia marani, 2007

What has been your most memorable moment with Phantom Projects?
There are so many moments that are unforgettable, but the one that comes to mind with the most impact was on my first tour with PP, "Out, Out, Brief Candle." After the Q&A session in which I had shared about my father and his drug and alcohol abuse, a 6th or 7th grade girl came up to me and said, "Thank you so much for sharing with us such an emotional part of your life!" She proceeded to share with me that her family had been in a similar situation to mine, and how it gave her a new confidence to know that there were other people experiencing the same things she was. It was at this moment that I knew why I was there.

Of the shows you have been in with Phantom Projects, which was your favorite?
Probably Our Town in 2003. I admired the beauty of the message it gave. Realizing how precious life really is can be difficult, especially in our fast-pace world. This show really highlighted how quickly life passes us by and we don't realize it until it's gone.

What do you want to be/do when you grow up?
I would love to pursue a future in acting. Along with this, I am hoping to someday work in the wine making and business industry.

What school do you attend and what is your major?
Santiago Canyon College. Business Administration.

Tell us about the friendships you have made through Phantom Projects.
The people I have met through PP are truly incredible. The friendships I have are built on a strong foundation. We all have morals and stand strong in our beliefs. We are each passionate about what we believe in. This allows us to come together and work to promote our common goal.

caitlin joyce, 2007

Through These Eyes
was my first show with Phantom Projects. After my audition, my initial thought was: “I have to work with this company”. They treated me like a person. Not a nervous actress, but a human being. This is a rare feeling to have in an audition. They have a way of making you feel free to make a choice, and commit to it. They make you feel safe, like you’re with an old friend.  I walked out of the audition happy, excited and wanting so badly to be in the show. The day after callbacks, I was given the role of ‘Maura’.  I was so thrilled to be a part of a show that talks about real issues in a way that really reaches teens. That’s the thing about this company; they don’t pump you with facts and statistics. It’s laid out on the table with real situations. They make it real life.

Our first rehearsal was nerve-wrecking. We only had three weeks of rehearsals! Some people have said that that’s absolutely crazy, but we had a wonderful and dedicated group of young actors.
After a week of individual rehearsals, we started to discuss the topic of the show. Steve wanted us to have a knowledge on this subject. He didn’t want actors standing up on stage; he wanted real teens talking to the audience. We were speaking from our hearts. This is why the play was so dear to all of us by the end.

The roles we were given were no longer words on a page, they were real people. Bruce Gevirtzman hits issues with a real teen influence. He, being a high school teacher, knows what’s really on teen’s mind. The problems we’re going through. Not how an ugly duckling goes to being the most popular girl in school, or the nerd finally kissing her dream guy. I know personally, if I were watching any of the shows that this company puts on, I would proclaim, ‘finally! Someone who feels exactly how I do!’

One thing you can say about Steve: he cares. He genuinely cares about us. When looking back on the entire experience, I am so happy I was given the opportunity to be apart of this company, because it is the best theatre experience I have ever had. I have been performing in theatre for seven years, and I have never developed such closeness with my cast mates in such a short period of time. That’s the atmosphere that is created; you’re among friends.
When we finally got to perform the show on stage, I had never felt so excited. I replay the first performance over and over in my head. The stage goes black, the audience cheers; that’s an awesome feeling. I’m going to be honest; it makes you feel like a rock star. The show begins; we hear the music, our hearts start to beat faster, we see the video clips, and finally it’s time to hit our marks on stage. The scrim goes up and we see our audience and I go blank. The thrill of performing is something that can’t be explained. Only experienced.

Why does Phantom Projects make performing so much fun? It’s because the shows are aimed at making a difference in people’s lives, not just for pure entertainment; to educate and to make an impact. This experience has had a profound impact on me personally. It has also made me see that, by helping others I’m truly using my talents for something other than self gain. If I can help or influence one person, then I’ve done my job. This company has true heart behind it. For myself, I will always be grateful for this experience. There’s nothing out there like Phantom Projects.

nallely murrilo, 2007

My name is Nallely and I am in the 12 grade at La Mirada High School.  I became familiar with  Phantom Projects in the Summer of 2002 when I went to La Mirada Theatre to see The Center Of The Universe, my friend was in the show. Ever since that day, I knew I wanted to get involved. I was in my first show with Phantom in Sept. of ‘06, (I
am so happy that I can finally say that).

These are some of the best times of my life because I get to pursue one of my dreams.  In addition to acting in front of a live audience, my favorite memories are talking to other teens in the audience about the show’s message.  I love these shows because they speak to teens in a way they can relate to.  There can be someone in the audience who is going through similar things and I can help them find a solution.

Once, during the question and answer session, a 14 year old girl came up to me and talked to me about her problems at home. She told me that her younger sister had been involved with drugs.  Her sister was sneaking out of the house with her boyfriend and would come home the next morning. She told me that her parents had found drugs in her room and told her to throw it out. They did not do much to help her. After she saw Out, Out Brief Candle it made her realize that what was going on in her house was very serious. She felt sad because she realized that the character in the play, could have been her sister. She let me know that she felt stronger to step in to self in her sister life.

I love being up on stage sending messages that may change someone’s view towards a subjects. Moments like those make me love what I do. Phantom Projects is a positive way to connect with other teenagers. It is a program that makes you feel like home. We have all became a family and enjoy each others company. I encourage other teenagers to get involved because it is a great experience. It is a chance to change or even save each other.  

paul cabrera, 2005
Phantom Projects is an educational theatre group designed to teach the value of human life and the importance of drug and sexual abstinence. This much about the group is commonly known.  What is not known by many people is how this message affects those who teach it.

I first learned of Phantom Projects while attending a field trip to see The Crucible at La Mirada Theatre.  I took great interest in the organization because the messages it relays.  I immediately acquired information on Phantom Projects and called to set up an audition for The Center of the Universe, the show with the goal of teaching the value of human life.
I was excited to learn that I would be in the cast of Universe as Craig, a 17 year old boy who had his entire future with his girlfriend Maria planned out.  I was more excited that I would be able to share this important message with others through my acting.  I have always had a strong conviction against prejudice and intolerance but was never really given an opportunity to share them and teach them until I joined Phantom Projects.

It wasn’t until the end of the tour I realized the actual impact Phantom Projects truly has on people.  Young people my own age would approach me for advice on very important issues.  Teenagers who are given the opportunity to witness these shows have true respect for the actors.  They view us not only as their peers, but people that they can turn to.

It wasn’t only the during the Universe tour that I noticed this.  I was also in a performance of No Way to Treat a Lady, the show promoting sexual abstinence.  Even though I only performed this show once, I noticed the same attentiveness and respect shown to us as in the previous tour.

Phantom Projects has a true purpose in society.  Everyone involved genuinely cares about life and how other people are treated.  I believe that if I had not joined this group, I would not be armed with the necessary tools to give good and sincere advice to those who seek it from me.  And for this, I am truly grateful.

valorie curry, 2003
When I found the casting call for The Diary of Anne Frank in Backstage West, I never considered it to be anything more than just another audition, just another show. I remember my shock at the initial audition, which was more like an interview than anything else. I had never heard of Phantom Projects before, and discovering that it was a touring group whose set was nothing more that a black sheet and PVC pipes didn’t exactly secure my confidence in the group. However, I left with quite a different sentiment, due in large part to the friendliness of those holding the audition (hats off to Steve and Bianca). Needless to say, I was pleased when cast, if only because I anticipated working with young people who defied the stereotypes of irresponsibility and apathy.

Throughout the rehearsal process, my entire perception of the show and Phantom Projects changed dramatically, primarily due to past cast members’ narrations of Phantom’s mission in teaching teens and its struggle to keep afloat. When the show finally closed, I came to a fork in the road: I could leave, pursue other auditions, and treat The Diary of Anne Frank like any other show I had been involved in, or I could simply stay, and devote most of my extracurricular energies to Phantom. The path I chose is obvious. Now, less than three months later, I find myself entirely engrossed in Phantom Projects. As if my senior year of high school wasn’t anticipated to be trying enough, it now holds two tours, involvement in the theatre shows, and, as a member of the new Board of Directors, many hours of planning and work. I can quite clearly see the reactions I will receive from teachers and friends when they discover how many projects I intend to take on, including pursuing the rigorous International Baccalaureate  Diploma, and I suppose I can only answer them in one way. I need theatre in my life, as do so many of the teens that dedicate their time and energy to Phantom Projects, and where else but in Phantom, could we find an experience which is both so artistically and morally satisfying?

bianca hernandez, 2002
I would like to take a moment to tell you a bit about my experience with Phantom Projects. I joined last year in December, for the tour of The Center of the Universe. I first saw the play because a friend of mine was in it; I had no idea what to expect. While watching, I immediately noticed the actors were young, in their teens. I could not believe how people so close to my age were taking on such serious issues. It was inspiring to me and I thought, “Hey, I could do this!”

When I became a part of Phantom Projects, I knew I would be sending a message to kids my own age but what I had not expected was that I would learn from this experience as well. While touring, we got to visit many different groups from Fillmore to Cerritos, to Redlands to Manhattan Beach. We met thousands of kids from all backgrounds and we talked to them about the message, their lives, the mood on their campus, and about themselves.

Traditionally, actors stay backstage while an audience finds their seats. However, Phantom Projects is not your traditional theatre group. We greet the students as they walk in and talk to them about what they are going to see. Many students have said they think this is really cool because they feel like they can relate to us more and feel comfortable asking us questions at the end. That is exactly why we greet them, because we are just like them. We are regular teens who have fun, who have problems, who go to school---who they can relate to. It is really exciting to see how the students are so interested in the message. Let me tell you, it is the greatest feeling knowing that you helped make a difference in somebody’s life---even if it is just someone who says “Thank you.” I love it, it’s a beautiful thing! It makes me so happy remembering the people who changed after seeing the show.

Honestly, I never thought that Phantom Projects was going to be such an important part of my life. Boy, was I ever wrong! I am so proud to be a part of a theatre group that plays such an active role in the community; not only do we get to meet teens, we now even read stories to children for the City of La Mirada! It has been an unforgettable experience from the very beginning, one I will never forget. I hope that Phantom Projects continues to grow and continues to make a difference, because it sure made a difference in my life.

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