Does your 7-12th grader want to change the world? Are they an actor, a writer, a mover, a storyteller, an artist, or advocate? Well you’re in luck! Registration is now open for the 2024 Voices of Now Mead Ensemble, which meets at Arena Stage on Saturday mornings beginning in November. 

Led by Arena Stage teaching artists, the ensemble creates and performs an original, autobiographical play to be performed at the Voices of Now Festival. No audition or previous experience is required.

What Exactly is Voices of Now?

Voices of Now (VON) is an internationally recognized, devised theater program where ensembles of middle-school, high-school, and adult artists work together to create autobiographical plays. These fast-paced, collaboratively written, physical pieces pose significant social questions relevant to the artists and their communities. VON’s goal is to create positive change within the artists’ communities by engaging in dialogue centered on the unique life experiences of the participants. VON creates important theater locally and internationally, including plays in Croatia, India, and Peru.

A past Mead Ensemble artist and current mentor, Chloe Lanyi Lari, explains why young people should consider joining the Mead Ensemble.

How many years have you participated in Voices of Now?

CHLOE: This is my 10th year in Voices of Now—the first three being with the Mead Ensemble and the rest with the Mentor Ensemble.

What has been the power of participating in Voices of Now for you?

CHLOE: When I started in the Mead Ensemble, I was 12 years old, and most of the advice I’d gotten in art was general encouragement and technical advice. In Voices of Now, I felt very supported, and my technical skills in writing and acting improved a lot—but more importantly, Voices of Now was the first place where I was taught to take my own art seriously. I think it can be very easy, especially when you’re a younger artist, to undercut your own work. By downplaying, self-deprecating, or even not sharing the things you create at all, you rob your art (and yourself) of power.

Through VON, I learned to respect my own voice and trust that the stories I wanted to tell were worth sharing with the world. Learning that skill in middle school not only influenced my confidence and power as an artist, but my confidence as a person moving through the world.

You have been a Mentor for the Mead Ensemble. What brings you back?

CHLOE: As a Mentor, the Mead Ensemble is one of the groups I work with the most. Every year, the stories they tell on stage take my breath away. VON places a lot of emphasis on ensemble building, and it really shines through with how seamlessly the Mead Ensemble works together—no matter whether there are seasoned artists in the ensemble or if it’s everyone’s first year. The ensemble looks out for each other—helping each other with lines and blocking, making sure everyone knows where to go and what to do on stage, and working together to bring each other’s stories to life! VON exists to create change—to uplift stories and help people ask questions about the world. I think this intention is clear in the focus and care that these young artists put into their work. We are going to change the world!

Why should someone participate in the Mead Ensemble?

CHLOE: It’s a wonderful way to grow your skills as a writer and a performer. It’s a place where you can be yourself safely. It’s a place where you can be a part of an incredible, supportive community—from your fellow artists to your directors to the other ensembles. VON is built to support young artists and help them succeed. It is a place where you can share the things in your life that you think the world should know about, and it is a place where you can learn from your peers and find the ways that your experiences are alike and unalike. Also, it’s fun!

Watch the 2023 Mead Ensemble’s Original play Sideline. Directed by Josh Bickford & Rachel Dixon



Saturdays starting November 4, 2023 until May 19, 2024, from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (with extended rehearsals during Spring 2024.)


The 2024 Voices of Now Mead Ensemble meets, rehearses, and performs in-person at Arena Stage.


  • Young artists in grades 7 – 12 are encouraged to register
  • No audition is required.
  • Registered artists are encouraged to bring a water bottle, a small snack, and shoes and clothing in which they can move freely and comfortably.


Tuition for the Voices of Now Mead Ensemble is $1,000


Photo of the 2023 Mead Ensemble by Cameron Whitman