Authored by Yael Bronner
Imagine a theater company on a mission to educate as well as entertain. The Irondale Ensemble does just this, operating as a “performance think tank” and using the theater as a conduit for learning and growth. Irondale delivers performances on thought-provoking topics and works tirelessly to attract the public through its community engagement programs. The ensemble, located in Brooklyn, New York, was formed in 1983 and is composed of 12 members including actors, directors and designers. It is funded by prominent cultural organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and The New York State Council on the Arts.
The Irondale Ensemble’s community engagement programs work to tackle societal issues head-on. Take the current issue of the tense relationship between the public and the police. In 2015, Irondale implemented a program entitled To Protect, Serve, and Understand in order to bring police officers from the New York Police Department and civilians into one room. The ensemble held two months of weekly workshops which focused on trust-building exercises and culminated in two theater performances. The program was designed to break down stereotypes and it ultimately worked to encourage conversation and promote empathy. As one participant explained, “It’s been an eye-opener for [me about] what the other side experiences [of police-community interactions].”
Irondale’s efforts extend to reaching out to the young population. Young Company is a teen ensemble whose participants create and perform productions, observe professional shows, and engage in activities to further improvisation, writing and communication skills. The program has provided a positive setting for teenagers and has allowed its participants to create friendships outside of their schools and neighborhoods. It has also served as a welcoming place for teenagers who feel out of place and alone.
Irondale thrives on innovation. It has implemented groundbreaking initiatives such as a summer camp catered to student scientists and engineers as well as a project exploring abolition and the anti-slavery movement in Brooklyn.
The Irondale Ensemble intends to serve a higher purpose and, in this way, furthers the Vincentian goals of love and respect. The ensemble seeks to instill the value of respect for all by creating a forum where open communication is encouraged with the goal of gaining “awareness of and esteem for all individuals.” Similarly, Irondale serves as a symbol of love. It provides others the opportunity for exploration and betterment of themselves, “[e]xtending minds and hearts to nurture one’s own and another’s good.”
Acting is more than playing pretend. It is a creative experience, one that presents challenges and encourages growth. The efforts of the Irondale Ensemble provide an invaluable service by pushing its participants to new levels. In this way, it continues to make our world a better place.
Footnotes “Mission,” Irondale Ensemble, accessed March 19, 2016, http://irondale.org/essentials/what/mission/.  “Ensemble,” Irondale Ensemble, accessed March 20, 2016, http://irondale.org/essentials/who/ensemble/.  “Funders,” Irondale Ensemble, accessed March 17, 2016, http://irondale.org/essentials/funders/.  Thomas Macmillan, “Police and the Public Bridge Gap Onstage,” The Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2016, accessed March 16, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/police-and-the-public-bridge-gap-on-stage-1454636756.  Heather Chin, “To Protect and Serve, One Must Understand: Irondale and NYPD Break Ground with Police-Community Theater Production.” Fort Green Focus. February 5, 2016, accessed March 19, 2016, http://fortgreenefocus.com/blog/2016/02/05/to-
protect-and-serve-one-must-understand-irondale-nypd-break-ground/. “Young Company,” Irondale Ensemble, accessed March 19, 2016, http://irondale.org/creative-learning/classes/young-company/.  Rosa Goldensohn, “Free Theater Program for Teens Kicks Off Next Month in Fort Greene.” DNAinfo New York, September 16, 2015, accessed March 20, 2016, https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150916/fort-greene/free-theater-program-for-teens-
kicks-off-next-month-fort-greene. Patrick Donachie, “Do Students Need to Learn Art to Succeed at Science? City Limits, August 13, 2015, accessed March 20, 2016, http://citylimits.org/2015/08/13/do-students-need-to-learn-art-to-succeed-at-science/.  “In Pursuit of Freedom,” Irondale Ensemble, accessed March 19, 2016, http://irondale.org/creative-learning/partnerships/in-pursuit-of-freedom/.  Christine Angel, (2013). “Information Representation Through the Vincentian Lens of Transparency: Providing the Under and Misrepresented with a Voice within our Cultural Heritage Records.”
Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VkY3xbRv1Ikuny5LApVmVWmSiZ81OTtUyJ6aSl_I3xo/edit Ibid.
Angel, Christine. “Information Representation through the Vincentian Lens of Transparency: Providing the Under and Misrepresented with a Voice within our Cultural Heritage Records.” https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VkY3xbRv1Ikuny5LApVmVWmSiZ81OTtUyJ6a Sl_I3xo/edit
Chin, Heather. “To Protect and Serve, One Must Understand: Irondale and NYPD Break Ground with Police-Community Theater Production.” Fort Green Focus, February 5, 2016. http://fortgreenefocus.com/blog/2016/02/05/to-protect-and-serve-one-must-understand-irondale-nypd-break-ground/.
Donachie, Patrick. “Do Students Need to Learn Art to Succeed at Science? City Limits, August 13, 2015. http://citylimits.org/2015/08/13/do-students-need-to-learn-art-to-succeed-at-science/
Goldensohn, Rosa. “Free Theater Program for Teens Kicks Off Next Month in Fort Greene.” DNAinfo New York, September 16, 2015. https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150916/fort-greene/free-theater-program-for-teens-kicks-off-next-month-fort-greene
Irondale Ensemble. “Ensemble.” Accessed March 19, 2016. http://irondale.org/essentials/who/ensemble/
Irondale Ensemble. “Funders.” Accessed March 20, 2016. http://irondale.org/essentials/who/funders/
Irondale Ensemble. “In Pursuit of Freedom.” Accessed March 19, 2016. http://irondale.org/creative-learning/partnerships/in-pursuit-of-freedom/
Irondale Ensemble. “Mission.” Accessed March 19, 2016. http://irondale.org/essentials/what/mission/
Irondale Ensemble. “Young Company.” Accessed March 19, 2016. http://irondale.org/creative-learning/classes/young-company/
Macmillan, Thomas. “Police and the Public Bridge Gap Onstage.” The Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2016. http://www.wsj.com/articles/police-and-the-public-bridge-gap-on-stage-1454636756.