By Erin McNellis

My name is Erin, and I’m the Acting Teaching Assistant and this is my first year at City Spotlights. To be honest, the thing that scared me the most about this job was going “on tour.” The idea of traveling around Boston, in the summer, with a group of 16 teenagers was something that worried me. While it was definitely hot and there was definitely some teenage attitude, I had the time of my life. I’m so happy to have spent four days running around Boston with my group, The Lit Biscuits.

The media-related issue that the Lit Biscuits decided to hone in on was: “Media is not always what it seems.” In their performance, a reporter uses social media to expose the poor working conditions of a name-brand shoe company. The CEO of the company decides to improve the working conditions after a video of worker mistreatment has gone viral, leading to an organized protest against the company. This narrative was aided by songs and dances that depicted the inner life of the characters in the scenes. While the teens were developing their material, they had intelligent, incisive conversations about not only the individual impact of social media but the global impact as well.

Despite the complex conversations that led to the creation of their work, they successfully made their message digestible for the 5-13 year olds that participated in the seven workshops they led. The games and discussions led by the Lit Biscuits during their workshops engaged and challenged the children to think about media more critically. During the performance, it was wonderful to scan the audience and watch kids with their jaws dropped. There was one adorable little girl who was enjoying the dancing so much I was genuinely concerned she might get up and start dancing with them. I could tell that for many of the young audience members, it was one of the first times they had seen themselves reflected in performing arts. A group of wildly talented teenagers who are from their neighborhoods, talk like them, and look like them walk into the room to perform just for them. It was really magical to watch kids see what’s possible for them, and to watch the teens take on that responsibility with precision and ease.

Yes, obviously, it was inspirational and exciting, but it was also super fun! Lit Biscuits were dedicated to winning the Pop-Up Performance competition from the very start. This meant finding time to squeeze in over 200 performances on street corners, parks, restaurants, and even fountains. I’ve never seen such dedication for bragging rights and cupcakes. Going on tour with the teens really highlighted the raw talent, strong work ethic and silliness all the teens at City Spotlight have to offer. I was so lucky to watch them work so hard to create change in their communities, but I was even luckier to get to spend four days just hanging out with them.