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Roisin McGinn, Time Out New York

★★★★ (Four stars) Like The Vagina Monologues for tweens, Keep Your Eyes Open is
a smart, sassy and sophisticated look at how it feels to be a girl. Written and performed by a
group of 10- and 11-year-olds—yes, we’re serious—the play is told through a series of YouTube
vignettes, turning a critical eye on such issues as self-image and the national curriculum. The
sophistication of the girls’ analysis and astuteness of their observations left me feeling a little
ashamed; whatever I was thinking at age 11, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t about the degradation of
women in our society. (The play has attracted attention from Senator Clinton, who wrote
personally to each of the cast.) While the diminutive narrator, Winnifred, stands out in terms of
sass, humor and overall charisma, the supporting cast is also strong; Gracie Bea and Maya
deserve special mention for their touching monologues, which prompted memories of my own
traumatic high school experience. While the jaded among us may feel that the “girl power” thing
has been done to death, this play is a reminder that new generations of girls are still
encountering all the old problems. Even if we’ve heard it all before, Keep Your Eyes Open
reminds us to care again.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State

I am delighted to send my greetings to each of you gathered here this evening to take part in this performance by [The Arts Effect]. It gives me great pleasure to congratulate all the young ladies for their participation in the production, Keep Your Eyes Open. I applaud each of you for your hard work, vision, and dedication in writing and performing your own play.

It is always wonderful to hear about young girls committed to something they are passionate about. In addition to your interest in theater theory and technique, your weekly rehearsals and months of preparation while commuting from all over New York City area have clearly demonstrated your devotion and enthusiasm for the arts.

Tonight’s [Arts Effect] production is a true expression of creativity that not only entertains, but also fosters an interest in the humanities, as it provides an outlet to express our thoughts on current events and culture. It is my hope that you find your experience most rewarding as you continue in your pursuit of the arts.

I send you my most heartfelt congratulations at this exciting juncture in your life.

See the original letter [Here].

Ruth McCann, The Village Voice

All the 11-year-old girls starring in Keep Your Eyes Open (Cherry Lane Theatre) know the “Soulja Boy” lyrics and the accompanying dance. And judging by these ladies’ canny looks of disapproval, it seems they know exactly what Soulja is saying about that ho. These girls are barely a decade old, and it’s soul-crushing to be reminded that the full burden of Hilton-Richie-Spears-dom is being allowed to fall on their tiny shoulders. But the kids are coping well, and they’ve pulled an energetic show about female preadolescent hell from their own small wells of angst.

Based on workshops the girls did with the PossEble Theater Company, Keep Your Eyes Open comprises a string of scenes and reflections from girl-world, all emceed by the young Winnifred (Winnifred BonJean-Alpart, who performs better than many adults at Fringe). The plot (the kids become less fretful, more feministy) is as thin as an Olsen, and the girls would be well-served by some mics, but the sparkling young ones provide frequent moments of sheer, hilarious glee (Winnifred declaims “Soulja Boy,” beat-poet-style). The girls vent about chauvinistic gym teachers, fickle friends, climate change, Disney’s “subliminal bullying,” and the dearth of women in their history curriculum. Though we’ve heard it all before, it’s heartening to see the sincerity flashing in those 11 pairs of doe-eyes.

Will Speck & Josh Gordon, Academy Award Nominated Directors

[The Arts Effect] offers the most terrific energy, attitude, trust, and patience! Beyond fantastic!

Julia Lipkins, Tilzy.TV

To see a theatrical rendition of just how much the idea of new media has permeated the minds and culture of our beloved youth, look no further than the The PossEble Theater Company, a sophisticated group of young actresses who seek to shine a light on girlhood in the 21st century.

Under the direction of Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney – alumni of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts – the members of The PossEble Theater Company created a play titled, “Keep Your Eyes Open,” which is structured around a snarky 11-year old, Winnifred, and her very own web TV show on YouTube.

Even though these 5th and 6th graders are not quite old enough to vote, they demonstrate an advanced knowledge of contemporary socio-political issues that would put the average (adult) voter to shame.

With a mini-dv camera in hand, Winnifred chronicles the lives of her pre-teen schoolmates as they wrestle with a wide array of issues, e.g. consumer culture, global warming, women’s history, the subtleties of feminine gossip and sexist gym teachers.

The play is worth noting because it successfully introduces the idea that web 2.0 could serve as an outlet or a resource for a new generation of women who are searching for positive role models – outside of the “hot or not” crowd, as Winnifred suggests.

These characters are also not only politically aware, but tech savvy. Posting a video blog to YouTube is almost second nature, and for these elementary school girls, it’s a go-to means of expression and an instrument for change. The production is a vivid reminder that kids these days are growing up in a very different technological environment than even their young, post-college teachers.

Unfortunately, the web show only exists within the magic of the theater, but I’m told the directors have plans to put Winnifred’s video show within the play on the virtual stage.

Julie Branam and Rick Wenger, Arts Effect Parents

Katie and Meg are the REAL DEAL! They don’t just give an acting class, they teach an acting class with REAL emotion and feeling. You can tell they LOVE what they do! They inspire the kids to dig deep with REAL feelings not “fake” overacting. Their approach to teaching is thoughtful, organic, and REALLY FUN! We are so lucky to have found them!

Carole and John Husiak, Arts Effect Parents

Our son has been part of this unusual acting experience for two years. He has developed not only a skilland love for acting, but has become a more confident young adult. Being part of the Arts Effect class hashelped him learn how to relax, how to be more in touch with his feelings and how to go beyond what he might have done in so many aspects of his day to day life. He has loved being part of the acting classand feels as though he is part of a wonderful community.

Roxanne Palin, Arts Effect Parent

The Arts Effect is an energetic, inclusive and nurturing organization that has fostered my child’s creativity and confidence. Katie Cappiello infuses her vast experience and talent into the classroom and her students respond by giving their all. My child looks forward to going to The Arts Effect each week.

Oona McSweeney, Arts Effect Parent

My daughter has been working with Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney for the last year and they arefantastic, professional, creative and really take the kids to the next level in acting. I cannot say enough about this program! My daughter’s acting skill has grown exponentially since starting with the Arts Effect, and she is more confident and comfortable in her ability.

David Bally, Arts Effect Parent

In just one day, The Arts Effect made my daughter’s entire summer!

Eva Kotch, Arts Effect Parent

Our kids had such an incredible year with the Arts Effects! Aside from their being able to walk in weekly to a fun, loving, and supportive environment, they booked four projects between the two of themand made major impressions on directors in many more. The fact that your program focuses on the actors ability to be in the moment and deliver a completely natural performance is no doubt a majorfactor in their success!

Emma Gilbey Keller, Slate

As DoubleX begins to create its new website identity, I’d like to shine the spotlight on the activities of the next generation of women, the so-called fourth wave of feminists, as today’s teens and tweens have been labeled.

On Monday night I took my two girls to a tween production of Keep Your Eyes Open, put on by The Arts Effect Theatre Lab in New York.

The cast of nine girls ranged in age from 10 to 12, and the performance was a kind of mini stage-version of DoubleX. The heroine launched a website, complete with webisodes, to deal with the same issues we talk about here. Her aim was to challenge the girl v. girl mindsets that takes root in middle school and turn them into a girl + girl equation. She wanted to create a community, both on the Internet and in her daily life. And she did. she was discouraged by negative comments on her blog, to the point where she almost quit, but she came back and kept it. In the process she took on mean girls, superficiality, consumerism, harassment, diet, and boys. Quite a feat for a two-hour show.

So there are blogs, reviews, forums, news, social-networking, and videos. Best of all are the videos. Regular soap-opera style webisodes of girls’ lives are streamed onto the website. This week, if you want a quick dose of one girl’s entertainment trip to the school bathroom, go to the home page and prepare to laugh.

Anything that has women and grils supporting and listening to each other gets my vote, but Monday night’s show wasn’t aimed at me, it was meant for my daughters. I watched them as they riveted during the scenes of teenage fights over designer clothes, sad girls crying at their sense of isolation, and party girls dancing to highly sexist lyrics that were then deconstructed and revealed to be offensive and derogatory. Nicholas Kristof was the show’s pin-up because he is “the only columnist who writes about women’s issues.” (Hard to believe any 10-year-old would actually say that, let alone know who he is.)

Middle school was shown to be a harsh, angry world. Middle-school girls were depicted as intelligent and articulate women of the future, prevented from being kind sympathizers by peer pressure. My girls thought the play was brilliant. I hoped it was an escape from reality, rather than a depiction of reality itself. I love the fact that they will have their own website. There can’t be enough websites for women.

Eve Ensler, Award-Winning Playwright, Activist, Founder of V-Day

We at V-Day are inspired by the incredible spirit of The Arts Effect girls!

David Gordon, nytheatre.com

“Girl Power!” is the theme of Keep Your Eyes Open, a production of the PossEble Theater Company’s youth division, the Arts Effect Theater Lab. Bill Cosby would be impressed by the eight 11-year old girls who take the stage in this hour-long presentation. These girls do say some of the darnedest things, but it seems they’d be more worried about impressing a woman like Diane Sawyer than Dr. Cosby.
Keep Your Eyes Open is directed by Katie Cappiello, a founder of the PossEble Theater Company, and her business partner, Meg McInerney, both NYU and Lee Strasberg School grads (Cappiello still teaches there, as head of the Young Actors Program.) With the eight girls who make up the youth company, they’ve devised a charming, yet entirely disturbing, program.
Eyes is disturbing for one simple reason: everything that the girls on stage talk about are the real fears present in the mind of today’s young ladies. The disturbing quality is the fact that, when at one point it was 16-year-olds worrying out body image and fitting in, the age is getting younger and younger. When you realize that the dialogue comprises entirely true and valid interpretations of what young girls think and obsess about, you look at the play differently. You think to yourself: “What the hell is wrong with this culture, this culture that thrives on Britney and Paris and dsay and worries about being fat and what makes somebody hot?”
That, it seems, is what Cappiello and McInerney are going for. Each young lady gets her chance to stand on the milk crate (literally) and describe her fears or dreams—whether or not she should be true to herself or should she change who she is to fit in or, in one of the particularly humorous sequences, a one-sided interview with Conan O’Brien.
Much of the humor comes from seeing the young ladies sing and dance to Gwen Stefani’s “Wind it Up” (a rendition of “The Lonely Goatherd”) and Soulja Boy’s “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” or from dialogue which one would never expect to flow from their mouths, like “I’m not fat, this is a fat mirror.” Still, this left me feeling very uncomfortable, more so, surprisingly, than the hilarious dance at the end of Little Miss Sunshine.
The cast is very spirited, some are stronger than others, but one can’t really be too picky when talking about the developing talents of 11-year-olds. Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart, as the lead whose “YouTube show” the play is framed around, is quite fun to watch, as are Gracie Bea Lawrence (who conducts the interview with Conan) and Vikki Eugenis as a Cheerleader.
Cappiello and McInerney have taught the girls grace under fire, and they are all especially professional when dealing with the losing battle of bedsheet curtains falling down throughout the performance. Daniel Zimmerman’s set, with “Hillary for President” posters and cubby holes, is unique and fits well with Eric Southern’s attractive lighting.
The downside of the script is that, for a show about how young ladies should not have so much pressure put on them to be beautiful or skinny or whatever, only the last ten minutes really deal with female empowerment, concluding with a slideshow of famous, powerful women (from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Amy Poehler, a friend of the production, who happened to be in the audience). The rest seems like a parody of what’s going on in the heads of young girls, with no real urging of “this is what you do to be yourself.”
Keep Your Eyes Open is truly a distinct experience, and it’s great to see so many youngsters having the opportunity to pursue their dreams, especially in this day and age when the arts are the first things to go when budget cuts are needed. However, I think if the play had more to say, it really could be something.

Amy Poehler, Golden Globe/Emmy Nominated

The work of The Arts Effect is so funny, so touching, and so real. Awesome to see such amazing writing and acting on stage!