Strengthening Youth Leadership

Transforms Communities

Joalis Ayala

Joaylis Ayala

I’ve always been interested in the visual arts and crafts. I’m going to study graphic design in college and that’s how I want to make a living.  I’m very independent and I have many dreams and goals. What makes me unique is that I manage to thrive wherever I am. I plan to be like that for the rest of my life. First Generation is my first experience with performing. I joined in 2017. I was part of creating Stand Tall Mi Gente from the beginning.


Kaylee Bishop

I value education, integrity and responsibility. I plan on studying criminal justice and working to improve our criminal justice system because I’m aware of its roots in various forms of inequity and oppression. I want to make our society a better place for people from all walks of life. I began a debate team at my school and I’ve been a member of First Generation Ensemble since 2017.




I am a 13 year old artist striving to set an example for the youth in my community, for my family, and for the world . I want to show everyone the importance of listening to the voices of oppressed youth, who have suffered so much, yet are afraid to speak out. I want not only youth to have voices, but adults too. There are so many of us who have been through so much and refuse to let out our roar. We all have power. We just need to find it.


Keiry Heath

Keiry Heath

I’m from Holyoke MA. I enjoy being outdoors and spending time in nature. I have a collection of house plants and over 50 crystals. I value deep and meaningful conversations around social justice that bring awareness to the injustices in our society.


Yaelisa Heredia

Yaelisa Heredia

People call me Lisa. I’m born and raised in Holyoke, MA. I’m very serious about my education. I’ve been involved in theater both behind the scenes and also as a First Generation Ensemble member.  I like having the hard conversations about topics that are difficult to discuss in our society. I think of myself as a problem solver and I like supporting others if they reach out for support. I joined First Generation in 2017.


Chiino Rios

Chiino Rios

I am a performing artist and entrepreneur. I’ve been with the Performance Project since 2008 and First Generation Ensemble since 2009. Every show we work on breaths new magic into me with and fills me absolute joy and excitement. I was in Ripple Effect and Fo n’ale (we must go). I had the opportunity to perform with First Gen in the KO Festival of Performance and in the Revolutions International Theater Festival in Albuquerque New Mexico. I aspire to be a professional actor and to continue to spread powerful messages into the world through my arts.


Ibrahim Sidime Sherif

Ibrahim placeholder

I’m a senior at Springfield Central High School and upon graduation I hope to study acting for stage and television. At first I was reluctant to join First Generation, but since I’ve joined, First Gen has become a part of me. I’ve attended in many ensemble retreats, participated in our collaboration with the UMASS Latinx Theater class and then performed with them at The Bing, and also helped to create Stand Tall Mi Gente!



 stand tallStand Tall Mi Gente! (2019-2020)

Stand Tall Mi Gente! is an uplifting performance about the importance of youth voices and the power of speaking out. The Holyoke-based ensemble created Stand Tall! to address social justice concerns through the lens of their own life experiences. Stand Tall! incorporates monologues, movement, storytelling, dance, poetry and drumming and touches upon identity, family struggle, hyper-masculinity, homophobia, and most importantly believing in one’s own voice.



 tendernessT e n d e r n e s s (2016-2018)

t e n d e r n e s s is a multi-lingual, physical theater piece that contrasts the dehumanization at the core of violence with the eternal power of human tenderness and connection. Inspired by events in Guinea, West Africa, Darfur, and the US, tenderness incorporates ensemble members’ experiences with violence, including war, street violence, police brutality, the school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration and human connection.

Tenderness incorporates movement, music and text in eight languages: Arabic, Mandingo, Kirundi, Haitian Creole, French, Spanish and English.

The authors and cast members originate from Haiti, Burundi/Rwanda, Guinea, South Sudan, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Tenderness is directed by Julie Lichtenberg with choreography support by Lesley Farlow. Iyawna Burnett, Sabrina Hamilton and Elsa Menendez consulted on the script. Sound design by Tony Silva and original music by Charles Neville.


 we must goFo n' ale (we must go) (2013-2014)

fo n' ale (we must go),  is a visual poem that embodies the melancholy of leaving. The piece incorporates dance, music, poetry, and seven languages: Kirundi, Nepali, Haitian Creole, Amharic, French, Spanish, and English.  Eight travelers originating from around the world have left their homelands for different reasons and find themselves traveling the same path. A waking dreamscape in which past, present, and future are interchangeable. Memories infuse their dreams, and time obscures the shape of memories.

Fo n' ale  suggests how there are moments in our lives when the impact of experience is crystalized, and carried forward in time with such vividness that the past becomes present, and continues to live within us.  These moments sustain as fiercely guarded memories, sources of power, as they shape and nourish identity, infusing all that we carry with us into the future.

The eight ensemble members, who currently live in Springfield, Massachusetts, originate from Nepal, Haiti, Burundi/Tanzania, Puerto Rico, Ethiopia and the United States.  Uwizeyimana Angelique, Iyawna Burnett, Benjamin “Bush” Christopher, Sosina Erkailo, Laeticia Israël Veronica Israël, Gita Koirala, Chiino Rios. fo n’ ale is directed by Julie Lichtenberg and Lesley Farlow.


ripple effectRipple Effect (2010-2011)

Ripple Effect is based in the personal narratives of the First Generation Ensemble, a group of young adults living in Springfield, MA.

Ripple Effect transforms the stage into a meeting point for their diverse lives that span four languages, Kirundi, Nepali, English, and Spanish, and three continents. Through poetry, movement, monologue and storytelling, the audience is transported from Springfield, MA to a U.S. army base, through a refugee camp in Tanzania, to witness a Nepali family’s struggle for recognition. Ripple Effect is a powerfully-crafted means of sharing the strengths and struggles of the ensemble members’ journeys, families, communities, fantasy worlds, and dreams for the future.  

Over the one and a half hours, the Ripple Effect connects the lives of Springfield youth to global events, such as the genocide and child soldiers of Rwanda/Burundi, and ethnic cleansing in Bhutan. Ripple Effect also addresses local and international issues, such as, addiction, HIV, foster care, and homophobia. Ripple Effect was directed by Julie Lichtenberg, Lesley Farlow, Elsa Menendez and Julissa Rodriguez. 


Selected Performances 2000-2017

First Generation and Performance Project Ensembles


Augusta Savage Galley - New Africa House, UMASS

Hampshire College – 2015 Social Justice Institute, Fo n’ ale 2013, Ripple Effect 2011

Springfield College, 2006, 2011, 2013

Holyoke Community College

Amherst College - Ko Festival of Performance 2010, 2014

Springfield Technical Community College

Bowker Auditorium UMASS

Westfield University

American International College

Mount Holyoke

The Elms

Holyoke Community College

Trinity College, Hartford, CT



Commerce High School

Renaissance High School

Central High School

Turners Falls High School

Northampton High School

Westfield Youth Service Center

Chestnut Academy

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School

Peck Middle School

Upward Bound

Rebecca M Johnson School

Brattleboro High School, Brattleboro, VT



Revolutions International Theater Festival, Albuquerque, NM - 2005, 2014, 2017

Ko Festival of Performance, Amherst, MA - 2011, 2012, 2016



Shea Theater, Greenfield, MA

City Stage, Springfield, MA

Academy of Music, Northampton, MA

Northampton Center For the Arts

Thornes APE 3rd Floor Performance Space, Northampton, MA



Evolve Without Borders: An Intergenerational Gathering of Global Theater Artists

6th International Digital Storytelling Conference, UMASS

Annual Healthy Men And Boys Summit, Holyoke Community College

Youth Leadership Forum “Healthy Men And Boys” Treehouse Community

Pa’Lante! A panel Presentation Celebrating Local Latina/o Activism- Amherst College

Basketball Hall of Fame, YES! Youth Conference

Wistariahurs Museum, Holyoke, MA (MASS Cultural Council Event)



New England Public Radio Springfield Grand Opening

Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival 2014, 2016

Flash Mob, 2014

Campaign Nonviolence 2014 - September 21st Street Performance, Springfield

Paul Robeson Social Justice Conference, Boston

Edwards Church Northampton

Unitarian Society, Amherst

Hampshire Jail And House Of Corrections

South Congregational Church



Springfield College Dance Department

The Care Center, Holyoke, MA

Upward Bound, Northfield Mount Hermon (2x)

Youth Action Coalition, Amherst

Springfield Public Library

Brattleboro Union High School, Brattleboro, VT

Our Place' Holyoke Shelter (with Paris)

Smith College

Hampshire College

University of New Mexico Theater Department

High Meadows Youth Facility, CT

Student Bridges of UMASS

Woolman Hill Quaker Center

YES! Youth Conference Basketball Hall of Fame

Hope and Inspiration Performing Arts Festival, Roxbury Community College, Boston

WW Johnson Life Center Youth Program

Springfield Substance Abuse Forum

DYS Westfield Youth Detention Center

Gateway Regional Middle school

Franklin County Youth Action Corps

River Valley Academy, Holyoke, MA

Marlboro College (video, lecture, discussion)

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

California College of Arts & Crafts

Hampshire Jail and House Of Corrections