Company Process

As Artistic Director of the Living Word Project, Marc Bamuthi Joseph works closely with a select group of writers and performers, ranging in age from 19-25. 

Our process includes engaging young artists who first take part in a mandatory “apprenticeship” – a year-long opportunity to observe and learn the process of developing work from concept to completion. Living Word Project apprentices are provided with the opportunity to create work of their own, under the mentorship of Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Completed works are then toured nationally as a part of the Living Word Project Repertory.

Over the course of a season, the Living Word Project:

  • Formalizes programming  & master classes for Youth Speaks writers demonstrating great promise
  • Forges new performance language by providing access to literary performance
  • Facilitates the creation of unique, cutting-edge work based in the “word,” but not limited by it
  • Provides emerging writers & performers with opportunities for their work to be developed and presented through a guided mentoring process
  • Premieres new work from nationally established & emerging voices (particularly in spoken word and hip hop theater)
  • Educates audiences about the possibilities & artistic merit of new forms / genres of the literary arts
  • Informs audiences that there is a social impact when historical elements go some how “missing” from traditional high school texts.

Read more about our process by clicking here.

Core Principles

“If America were deaf, we would still sing”  -Alain Locke 

There are two pervasive themes that permeate all aspects of Youth Speaks & the Living Word Project artistic development culture. 

The first is a disciplined attention to “First Sound”.

When we describe ourselves as initiating movement from “the margin to the core”, we implicitly reveal an understanding of the silencing of our constituents, primarily the youth that we serve. Among our further institutional claims is that our belief in voice is founded upon a practice of finding, developing, publicly, presenting, and applying our constituents’ ideas. The notion of “first sound” relative to the pedagogical underpinnings of our development system indicates a projected adherence to the radical integrity of a participant’s moments of personal discovery through art.  

Youth Speaks & the Living Word Project imposes vocabulary in workshop and rehearsal processes that stresses this belief (there are no wrong answers, your standard is yourself, etc.). We endeavor to instill a certain level of passion and commitment to the integrity and artistic hunger of this first utterance, or moment of realization, and challenge our constituents to maintain this commitment to first sound throughout their artistic development. ? 

The second core principle  is “Urgency.”

Simply put, we ask our constituents if they are MOVED, politically, spiritually, intellectually, or physically by their own art, and if they INTEND to provoke an audience to movement in the same way. If our constituents do NOT seek to provoke out of an urgent need to develop understanding, then WE have failed in our practices. 

These core principles presuppose a basic and efficient practice of conventional arts-education methodologies: editing, revision, rehearsal, repetition, and social, media, financial, environmental and cultural literacies.

As we deepen our constituents’ artistic skills through such methodologies, we simultaneously equip them with content to enhance their understanding of material continuum and the responsibility to “pay forward” their work, educationally and artistically, to future generations.

Professional Artists

Professional artists affiliated with the Living Word Project include Kamilah Forbes, Rennie Harris, Adia Whitaker, Sonia Sanchez, Robert Moses, Sarah Jones, Danny Hoch, The Chicano Messengers, Ellen Sebastian Chang, Ursula Rucker, Savage Jazz Dance, John Santos, SF Jazz,  Cultural Odyssey, Me’Shell N’Degeocello, Blackalicious, Jeff Chang, Talib Kweli, Saul Williams, Zion I, Goapele, Ledisi, Marcus Shelby, Ishle Park, Beau Sia, and Robert Henry Johnson.