Justin Wade shares his story and how it relates to his work with the Young Actors Theatre

About the speaker

Justin Wade has served as the Executive Director of Young Actors Theatre in downtown Indianapolis since 2005. Since then, Justin has produced over 400 youth productions featuring Kindergarten-12th graders, and he has revolutionized the way Young Actors Theatre tells stories as well as the stories we tell. With a team of dedicated artists and educators, Justin has developed Self-Empowerment Theatre, where we use theatre to instill confidence, creativity, and discipline. Instead of buying scripts from Broadway plays and reproducing them, Justin has introduced the technique of devised theatre to help students work with their directors to write their own plays about topics that matter to them. He embraces theatre by youth and for youth as a uniquely powerful educational tool for everyone – not just theatre kids. Everyone wants to experience greatness, and the process of collaborative storytelling teaches us all about the inevitable struggles on the path to success, and how we can tackle them together.

Justin considers himself an educator first and foremost and has spent over 20,000 hours in the classroom teaching and learning theatre education. This doesn’t keep him from being an extremely effective leader. Under Justin’s direction, Young Actors Theatre has increased its operating budget by over 40 times and has gone from serving about 60 students every year to teaching Self-Empowerment Theatre classes to 1980 students this past year. He has clarified the mission, methods, and core values of Young Actors Theatre, allowing us to measure our success more clearly. Most recently, he participated in the prestigious Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership Series and is deeply dedicated to addressing the issues that drive Indiana, opening up each conversation to adults and youth alike. Justin has overseen a full restructuring of YAT’s programs, leading to our new model of every performance for 4th – 12th grade dealing with a relevant social issue. Justin is using theatre as a conversation starter to help Indianapolis youth and all citizens consider all the angles on issues like anxiety, the pressures of social media, violence, and the opioid crisis. He envisions, and is working towards, an Indianapolis full of empathetic individuals and effective collaborators, building our own story as a creative and inclusive community.

Justin invites you to read more about his personal story of overcoming heroin addiction, and to hear him speak on the topic of theatre as a powerful disruptor in education.

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