Extraordinary Teens

VivaTysons Reston Lifestyles magazine is thrilled to present our readers with a selection of exceptional teens from our local area we found through personal recommendations and Internet searches.

Teen Participants from (the) Unruly Theatre Project

Hometowns: mostly McLean, Vienna, and Herndon

VivaTysons Reston Lifestyle magazine called both the McLean Community Center as well as the old Firehouse Teen Center and was enthusiastically recommended to feature the talented teens from (the) Unruly Theatre Project (UTP).

According to its website, the UTP is a professional improv company composed entirely of teens that are “dedicated to bringing comedic productions to the community.” They offer shows to the public 2 – 3 times per month during the school year. All performances are free.

These teens come from cities including McLean, Vienna, and Herndon. Some teens travel from distant places including Loudoun County and Prince George’s County. In previous years, some have come from locations as far away as D.C. and other parts of Maryland.

There are various remarkable things about these teens. First, participation is by audition only. According to UTP’s adult mentor, Danielle Van Hook, “We hold auditions once a year in the fall… We pay attention to each young person’s talent, but also their willingness to ‘say yes’ to their scene partners and their desire to gain leadership skills… After auditions, we jump right into rehearsing twice a week until mid-May.”

Second, UTP is a professional organization, which means its teen members get paid, just like their adult counterparts in major theatrical productions! Van Hook stresses that all company members are compensated for working in each performance or workshop given to the public.

Third, learning to do physical comedy, slapstick, or improv is not just fun and games – – the teens also use this experience to become better leaders and learn stage management, rehearsal schedules, acting, lessons, performance art, and what it means to have peers and work in an ensemble.

Van Hook, who is also the director of youth theatre programs of the Alden Theatre at McLean Community Center, felt strongly about not singling out any one teen from the group. She noted: “They each are amazing and have grown in their ways. Company members have shared with me that they use these skills in school projects, community service assignments and many of them are also leads in school plays and involved in theatre and film projects outside of high school.”

For more information on (the) Unruly Theatre Project, please visit: mcleancenter.org/performing-arts/unruly-theatre-project

John Foong (age 18)

Hometown: Herndon

Frying Pan Farm Park manager, Yvonne Johnson, recently recommended to us an exceptional teen whose efforts to help clean up the park have resulted in the creation of a nonprofit, START at Frying Pan Farm Park.

John Foong, now 18 and a freshman at Virginia Tech University, began his work with environmental causes when he was a junior at Westfield High School in Chantilly. An avid boy scout, Foong began volunteering at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon. He noticed the overgrowth of Japanese stillgrass, a bright green grass with short blades that resemble mini bamboo. He knew this was a problematic grass that needed to be removed.

Foong also worked to achieve a William T. Hornaday award, a prestigious honor from the Boy Scouts of America that recognizes the long-term efforts of conservation projects. Foong chose to work toward his Hornaday award while benefiting Frying Pan Farm Park. For more than a year, Foong rallied the help of many volunteer groups of youth and adults to physically remove the Japanese stillgrass from park grounds.

He also worked tirelessly at community day booths, imparting his knowledge of Japanese stillgrass and solutions for its elimination while meeting with and talking with children and adults.

Foong’s project not only netted him the Hornaday award, but gained strong support from Fairfax County Park Authority’s invasive management area program. What started as work towards the Hornaday award eventually became known as START at Frying Pan Farm Park. As per its Facebook page, “This is why we’re called START- environmental care is a long-lasting responsibility, and we want to make it a substantial part of our community.”

Foong states he wants to continue doing work at Frying Pan Farm Park and advocating for long-term community efforts towards a sustainable future. As a freshman with a major in environmental response management, he is already on the road towards a bright future in helping save the environment one stillgrass at a time.

For more information on John Foong’s work, please visit: www.facebook.com/STARTatFPFP

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