According to the Alliance Theatre’s website (www.AllianceTheatre.org), The Collision Project was developed in 2001 and is a program of community engagement between the theater and metro Atlanta teenagers. It is open to rising high school juniors to college freshmen. Using various forms of creative expression — such as dance, improvisation and photography — students develop an original play based on certain themes stemming from a classic play. However, this year will mark the first time a movie and screenplay will be used as the basis for the project.
In 1962, a plane carrying 132 people crashed near Orly Field outside of Paris, France. Two crewmembers survived, and victims included art community leaders from Atlanta.
Kathleen Covington, public relations manager for the Alliance, said the Woodruff Arts Center, which houses the Alliance Theatre, has been commemorating the anniversary of the Orly crash with a series of events and wanted to include it in this year’s Collision Project. Cleage wrote a commemorative poem, “Wish You Were Here,” which she read to the project’s participants.
“Since (Cleage) was so heavily involved with the Collision Project this year, we wanted to try to pick something that represents the theme of what your life means,” Covington said. “The (victims’) lives went on to mean something more, which turned out to be the founding of the memorial arts center, which became the Woodruff Arts Center. It was more trying to find something that tied into that theme, and we felt like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was a perfect choice.”
Cleage, the Alliance Artist in Dialogue, said, “Out of that tragedy, people recommitted themselves to the idea of building a first-class arts center. That dedication was even strengthened because of the sorrow people felt. That tragedy was part of what was the impetus to create a nationally known place that is really a great gift to people in Atlanta in the area.”
She said using the anniversary of the Orly crash and “It’s a Wonderful Life” has allowed the students to explore issues such as the passions that drive people’s lives, the impact of art, and questions raised about a well-lived life. In the final performances, Cleage said audiences will be able to see how the issues are translated into the everyday lives of the program participants.
“The level of honesty these young people bring to the process is just astounding,” she said. “At the end of those three weeks, we have perhaps found some — not necessarily the answers to everything — but we found certainly some ways we can look collectively at the challenges that they face.”
Although Hood and Guthrie initially were unfamiliar with “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the Orly tragedy, they said the knowledge of both and the overall experience in the Collision Project has been rewarding.
“It’s just a whole new level of openness,” said Hood, a Vinings resident and rising junior at the Galloway School. “I think as a result of them being lost to us, we made up for it by creating this building and a safe place for artists to come here and participate in one common thing: Art and their love of art.”
Guthrie, a rising senior at Hillgrove High School, said the project gave him exposure to the Atlanta arts world, as well as access other professionals and peers.
“It’s the coolest thing in the world,” he said, “I get to work with a remarkably talented group of kids.”
Of their public performances, Hood said, “It’s going to be great. We are going to be able to share our thoughts with the audience and our families.”
The High Museum of Art’s Teen Team will create the set for the public performances. To reserve tickets and for more information, call (404) 733-4749, email email@example.com or visit www.AllianceTheatre.org