Noreen Yarwood ’02 (Theatre Arts) founded the non-profit Shake it Out on the premise that exploration through theatre arts is essential to youth development and contributes to the overall social and emotional well-being of young people.
“I’ve always felt like I needed to give back and to expose young people to theatre,” said Yarwood. “Shake it Out originally started as a Shakespeare summer theatre program, but as it evolved, I was more and more motivated to focus on the power of young women coming together to create original theatre based on the challenges they face.”
Shake it Out helps girls from Brooklyn-based neighborhoods, regardless of socio-economic status, nationality or ethnic origin, to explore storytelling through theatre in a peaceful, supportive, educational setting. Last summer, Shake it Out partnered with SUNY New Paltz for a three-day program on campus that culminated in a student-created performance based on the work of Augusto Boal.
“A few weeks before the program started, I came to the College to drop off my contract and take care of a few things,” said Yarwood. “I was practically skipping across campus I was so giddy with excitement. My time as an undergraduate was extremely special and I couldn’t think of a better place to host Shake it Out.”
Established in 2013, Shake it Out’s staff guides campers through the creation of original theatre pieces inspired by improvisation, poetry, short stories, music, dance and current events. The program offers an expense free, overnight program for teen girls age 12-17. Students are chosen on financial need, scholastic success, interest, demonstrated independent initiative and other factors.
“Programs like this are so important for young students interested in theatre because it also exposes them to life on a college campus,” said Yarwood. “For many of the girls I serve they assume they will attend college in the city or close to home. I want to show them that they can go to school for theatre and go to school away from home at a place that is both diverse and beautiful.”
Yarwood is a native of the Hudson Valley and earned her master’s degree in theatre education from Emerson College. After graduation, she began actively seeking opportunities to work with urban youth from underserved communities in Boston, Mass. before moving to New York City.