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The Sharks Foundation Shines the Spotlight on San Jose Rep's 'Red Ladder' Program

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks

“Lights…Camera…Action!” At the San Jose Repertory Theatre acting isn’t just a career or hobby, it’s a way of life. This is particularly true when it comes to their award-winning social outreach program called “Red Ladder” who works with a wide range of groups within the community, using the tools and techniques of improvisational theatre to help its participants develop positive life-skills.

Click here for PICTURES from Thursday's check presentation.

Since its inception in 1992, Red Ladder has been dedicated to serving individuals outside the scope of mainstream services, with a special commitment to young people. Red Ladder works with at-risk populations, incarcerated youth and adults, pregnant and parenting teens, homeless high school students, developmentally disabled youth, drug recovery program participants and community service leaders. Red Ladder achieves phenomenal success with each of these groups partly because of the deep work that the artistic process requires from each participant and partly because Red Ladder is not a one-size-fits-all program. Workshops are tailor-made for each population, each group, and each session.

“I believe that two of the most important elements in Red Ladder are time and listening. The Red Ladder program was born out of my desire to have more of an impact on participants, and I didn’t feel it was possible to do that by working with a group just once, or with an assembly-type program. Working with small groups, however, over extended periods of time, promised a way to develop real relationships and have a more lasting effect. This would represent a fundamental way of doing things at Red Ladder, and it would require the support of the Rep and generous funders who appreciated the investment we would all be making,” says Red Ladder Founder John McCluggage.

To achieve this customization, Red Ladder staff work with teachers and social service professionals to plan sessions that advance groups at their own speed while incorporating their own specific interests, concerns, and dreams. Though thoughtfully planned to achieve concrete objectives, actual sessions are allowed to remain somewhat fluid. This fluidity permits Red Ladder staff to react in real time to abilities and interests demonstrated by each group and by individuals within that group, drawing directly upon each student’s unique artistic genius and life experience.

“Across Santa Clara County school districts have been forced to cut their art education programs, despite the positive effect exposure to art has been shown to have on students. San Jose Repertory’s Red Ladder program is filling that void with an outstanding and successful program and we are honored to assist them in their efforts. The value of art and culture on our community, especially our children, should never be underestimated,” states San Jose Sharks Foundation Director Laura Johnston.

Throughout each session, participants’ interests and decisions drive the action. Their efforts are rewarded with praise and encouragement. Through this method of acknowledging and validating participants’ choices, a safe and creative environment—free from judgment and consequence—is forged. Red Ladder’s multi-disciplinary approach fuses theatre, performance skills, music, dance, writing, and visual art and fosters all learning styles and abilities. Most workshops run from two to three hours in length and are held once a week for four to eight weeks. Throughout the workshop experience group members are challenged with progressively more difficult interactions to help develop their abilities to the fullest. Red Ladder aims to jump-start participants’ imaginations in the confident knowledge that it is the mastery of creativity that holds the greatest promise for change.

For those Sharks fans who may wish to get involved with the San Jose Repertory Theatre:
  • Choose a volunteer position include ushering, helping with mailings or group projects and much more.
  • Support the program financially. Donations are welcomed at any level from individuals, organizations, companies or foundations.
For more information on The San Jose Repertory Theatre or the Red Ladder program, to volunteer or make a donation, please visit or call Karen Altree Piemme at (408) 367-7290.
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