Apr 09, 2010 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Solvay High School freshman Ana-Rachel Richardson had already been performing with the Media Unit for nearly two years when she decided to “try something a little different,” and host the weekly public-access show Rough Times Live, produced by and for teens.
Like many other facets of the Unit — running a camera, developing choreography, blocking a performance — Ana-Rachel had little experience interviewing guests and hosting a show. But that was part of the appeal. So last November she jumped at the chance to host an episode, and ended up playing a role in solving a murder.
“I knew it would have long-term effects,” Ana-Rachel said of the Unit’s style of tackling tough, realistic issues like gang violence and racism among teens. “But I never thought it would be helping someone solve a murder.”
Ana-Rachel sat down with Angelik Mitchell, whose 20-year-old son Anthony Lewis was stabbed to death in August 2009, district attorney William Fitzpatrick and then-deputy chief of Syracuse police Frank Fowler to discuss Lewis’ murder and teen violence in Syracuse.
The teen remembered asking Mitchell if she thought participating in a show centered around teen violence would personally help her with the grieving process, and expecting a very different answer from the one she received.
“She said, ‘no, what will help me is getting murderers off the street,'” Ana-rachel said. By the end of the show, Mitchell and the police had exchanged information; in February the police charged Mizrain Trinidad-Ayala, 23, with the killing.
Not bad for a first-time host.
Ana-rachel said she heard about the Media Unit through a friend and decided to check out the performing aspect of it; she’s always had a passion for acting and singing.
But since joining at age 12, she has been able to play a variety of roles and try her hand at the technical side of the media.
“I’ve learned I’m capable of a lot more than I thought I was,” she said.
Her mother, Jan Richardson, has seen the impact of the Unit on her daughter, too.
She sees it in her work ethic, her confidence and maturity. But it isn’t always easy to deal with the subject matter of the shows.
“She’s been a hooker, a ghost, a shooter, and a killer,” Jan said.
But it’s opened a dialogue in the house, just as the Unit does in the community.
In March, Ana-rachel and the Unit took second place in the Public Affairs category of the Syracuse Press Club’s television awards for Rough Times Live.
She and Media Unit co-performer Anna Quackenbush, also 14, were awarded with the Onondaga County Bureau of Aging and Youth’s annual Media Award, an honor reserved for journalists and broadcasters whose focus on positive images of youth has created a significant impact on the community.
Are you a performer?
Ana-rachel and Anna will perform “Wasted,” a show about two teens locked up for the crimes they committed while drunk, at this year’s Michael Harms Theater Festival.
The Media Unit is currently auditioning for summer cast and technical positions, call 478-8648 to make an appointment or for more information.
Summer positions are full-time, paid opportunities for teens to gain experience in the media while performing socially-conscious shows for their peers.