Staying Busy

Teens On the Screen

While he was the Artistic Director for Bronx Creative Arts for Youth (BCAY), a nonprofit children's art organization, Simmons conceived of an exciting project. He wanted to give teens a chance to create, write and perform in their own TV drama series. With another screenwriter (Mimi Plevin Foust) and working only as instructors, "guide posts," as Simmons called it, he created a series of workshops in which middle school and high school students created a fictional series about life as they saw it.

After four first draft scripts were completed Simmons called in long time friend and professional film director Mark Gasper to workshop the students as they went through rewrites, casting and full scale, low budget, filming. Thus East 182nd Street was born, and over a six year period the four-episode series, an art and education projects created by teens from the Bronx, has:

* Screened in three states,
* Broadcast on seven different cable stations from New York to California;
* Won over seven awards;
* Presented at twenty film festivals – including one in Seoul Korea, and The International Children’s Festival in Finland.

 

Fresh Air Fund

Simmons also created and wrote three interactive plays involving six actors and over 100 FAF children and staff members. "Of the three (plays) the mystery was my favorite," Simmons said. "The stage was the entire camp grounds, buildings, woods and all. It took place over a twelve hour period and the kids had to work in teams to solve the crime! Talk about your cognitive thinking."

The other plays revolved around attempting to avert an environmental disaster, and making ethical choices in the face of huge monetary temptations. The events were so successful that the Fresh Air Fund produced them several years in a row.