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Our Story

Our mission is to provide performance opportunities, introduce youth to different aspects of the creative industry, and provide a safe place where kids can participate in activities and lessons that develop creativity, confidence, and personal growth. We aim to influence their lifetime economic footprint by exploring and strengthening their natural talents and gifts providing a path to higher education and careers in the creative world.

Youth Drama Theater is a performing arts club for the youth of South Los Angeles. Our goal is to provide opportunities for young people to be creative thru acting, singing, dancing, storytelling, and tech arts. Our programs and productions are designed to instill pride in our youth as they tackle the art of theater and pride and hope in our community as they support these young artists.

The founders of Youth Drama Theater (YDT) were all products of school and community programs and theater productions, yet when we looked around we noticed that our youth today didn’t have those opportunities. So talented youth either had to travel outside of their neighborhood and pay upwards of $500-$1000 to be in one show or they just missed out!

Youth Drama Theater was created to be a Children’s Musical Theater Company. We would produce hit Broadway plays and musicals starring the youth of South LA.

To get our foot in the door and to study the needs of the community we began our journey as an after-school program. Partnering with Jackie Tatum Harvard Park, we offered a drama program to youth in the neighborhood. We created a program with 5 areas of creative learning: activities, experiences, community service, rehearsal, and performances. These 5 areas include acting games, singing lessons, career days, field trips, guest speakers, 2 shows a year, and more!

What we learned was fascinating. That area used to have a robust Theater program. One of the older staff shared her experiences of being in some of the productions when she was younger. That program died out leaving two generations of youth without the opportunity to experience the benefits of participating in live theater.

We learned that even though Hollywood was only 10 miles away many did not think it was a place for jobs, sustainable income, or something they could be a part of.

So we decided to expose our youth to OUR world of creativity. Our youth attended professional theater productions of Dreamgirls, Once On ThisIsland, Finding Neverland, and Sister Act. During career day they had a private tour and lunch at Dreamworks Animation sponsored by then production supervisor Aydra Walden who recently joined YDT’s board of directors, or youth also organized a Theater Day for the kids at the park. They decorated, led acting games, gave out prizes, and bought and MADE treats for the kids to eat.

Nikkema Taylor
Executive Director, Founder, and Board President, South Los Angeles

A lifetime advocate for those in need Nikkema from youth organized with the San Jose Youth Branch of the NAACP, and STAT (Stop Teenage Addiction to Tobacco), After graduating for Cal State Sacramento with her degree in Communication she moved to LA, worked professionally in theater and film, and joined the Actor’s Equity Union. In 2015 she formed YDT, in 2017 she completed a 9-month fellowship program in cultural policies sponsored by Arts for LA. She plans on furthering her learning by earning a non-profit management certificate in 2021 thanks to a professional development grant from the California Arts Council.

Harrison Killian- White
Vice President and Founding Board Member, Sylmar, CA

Harrison is a stage and screen actor, singer, and writer. He is a member of Actor’s Equity and SAG -AFTRA unions. A teacher and private coach, Harrison provides insight and training preparing young and old for a career in the arts. Helping develop their practical skills and talents he pushes and motivates then to be all they can be. Harrison has been instrumental as a Board member of YDT helping out in any way he can including as a photographer. He along with another board member treated our 2021 “Annie” cast with headshots!

Yvette Cason
Secretary and Founding Board Member, Porter Ranch, CA

Yvette is a breath of fresh air to our company. She is not only a successful stage and screen actor, but she is a mom. She is always available to help in the guidance of programming from parental eyes. She was our boundaries and discipline coach! She knew what rules and guidelines should be in place and helped to establish them. Yvette is a proud member of Actor’s Equity, SAG- AFTRA, and Black Rebirth Collective. She is also a member of the community organizations Tarote, Inc. (The Arts Reaching Out Through Education) adn Just One Step For Democracy.

Parnell D. Marcano
Treasurer and Founding Board Member, South Los Angeles

Short Biography: Parnell is a member of Actor’s Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA. He is also very involved at Celebration Theater, LA’s premiere theater for LGBTQ community. Parnell is their company Manager. In addition he is the president of Persnickety Demands Enterprises, LLC. Parnell is YDT’s first choreographer and spent several weeks teaching during our very first semester. Then Oprah Winfrey took him away, Parnell spent 4 seasons on OWN’s Greenleaf.

Connie Jackson
Founding Board Member, West Hills, CA

Short Biography: Our other photographer, Connie Jackson is an actor, siger, and producer. Connie was a producing partner of AFBC Film Group. Their first web series, “EXTRACTION” (in which she starred along with her producing partners) premiered on Facebook and YouTube Summer 2020. Connie also co-produced the award-winning short “MY NAME IS LAMAR”; which had some great success at several film festivals. An animal lover, she also is an advocate and volunteer at animal shelters in Southern California District

Ellen Frankel
Founding Board Member, Century City

Ellen is a retired interior designer and lover of performing arts. She has supported YDT from its inception. A life-long philanthropist, Ellen supports art and cancer research organizations. She is also a volunteer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center

Kim Berry
Founding Board Member, South Los Angeles

Kim Berry is a community member and the mother of the girl who inspired the creation of YDT. She is an entrepreneur and business owner and spent years in the industry as traveling hair stylist for Prince.

Donald Bruce
New Board Member, Los Angeles, CA

Short Biography: Donald finally joined the YDT board. He has been instrumental in the creation of this organization. He was our consultant while our founder was putting together the original business plan. Donald is a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 871. He was a production finance consultant, V.P. Production Finance (cineFinance), VP Production Finance (Bold Films), and Production Controller (NuImage/Millennium Films). Donald is now retired and committed to helping YDT build systems that will aid in its growth.

Aydrea Walden
New Board Member, Valley Village, CA

Short Biography: Aydrea is a member of the Writer’s Guild (WGA) and the Producer’s Guild (PGA). She is currently a staff writer at Disney Jr. Her past credits include, manager for scripted content at Peacock Kids, and production supervisor at Dreamworks Animation. She is also affiliated with Women in Animation, City Year Mentor (through NBCUniversal), UTLA. Aydrea has been a “Friend of YDT” since it’s beginning. In fact, she hosted our first career day field trip and lunch at Dreamworks Animation where she let the kids see a sneak peek of the new movie they were working on, TROLLS!

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