The 2015 ITLP 10th Anniversary Birthday Gala is coming up on Friday November 20th!

Etcetera Etcetera Restaurant 352 West 44th Street, New York


As always, our goal at these events is to share ITLP’s aspiration – to give children and young people around the world theatre experiences that allow them to be seen and heard, and to explore the questions:

What do you think? What makes you angry or fills your heart?
What are your challenges, hopes, and dreams?
What are your choices? What’s next?

Stephen DiMenna, Artistic Director for 10 years, ITLP has had one mission: to empower the youth in developing countries through the use of theatre. ITLP is growing in leaps and bounds. Our future has never looked so bright! ITLP has been able to reach over 800 Tanzanian, Rwandan, Indian and this year South African students, giving them the opportunity to write and perform their own story, in their own way, with their own words; facilitated by deeply devoted and highly trained American teaching artists.”

Reinaldo Green directed a short documentary ITLP’s 2012 workshops in two Cape Town townships – click here to view the film. The film shows the uplifting, transformative nature of ITLP’s work in the challenging lives of kids in the townships of Khayelitsha and Philippi.

Grace Gachocha Nkaka (pictured left with ITLP teaching artist and Board member Nilaja Sun), Program Director in Tanzania, added a personal account of the impact the ITLP has had on her life, the life of her students and the wider community – like the ripple effect of a pebble dropped in the sea. Born in Tanzania, Grace realized her true self by co-facilitating the ITLP theatre workshop with renowned arts educator Eric Booth in 2008. Today, she is enrolled in a Masters program at Columbia College Chicago and is dreaming of starting a national organization in Tanzania that will offer bring the arts to government schools in Tanzania. Grace spoke about the ITLP students she saw begin to dream and express themselves – something which she stated is not common in the Tanzanian school system and culture. She told the story of one student, Bryson, who said “You are brave and have ventured into the arts. I too would like to follow your example.” Grace was “proud to say Bryson has started a Drama club that he runs twice a week for a number of orphans in his area.” She encouraged everyone present to be part of and support the amazing ripple effect of ITLP. (You can read Grace’s full speech here.)

ITLP is extremely grateful to everyone who contributes their time, their talent, silent auction items and financial support. It is your support that lets South African students sing and dance, opens the path for women like Grace to come to the USA and students like Bryson to share the gift of art to orphans in his community.

You can still support ITLP now with a donation by check, credit card or PayPal. We also have a few beautiful ITLP Quick Buy items from India and Tanzania left for purchase, the proceeds of which will benefit ITLP's Voices of the Future project in 2015. Please see photos and descriptions of the items here and contact our ITLP Assistant Director, Stephen DiMenna at to complete and process your purchase.



Young Friends of ITLP gather at Tribeca Champagne Bar

May 22, 2012 - Thank you to everyone who attended our 5th annual Young Friends of ITLP Spring Benefit  at The Bubble Lounge last night.

It was a wonderful evening with drinks, hors d'oeuvres and a silent auction in support of the International Theatre & Literacy Project's 2012 summer programs.

Young friends of ITLP got to purchase and bid on items from Tanzania, Rwanda and India (which support local enterprises) as well as on theatre tickets, fitness classes and other experiences, donated to ITLP. (Thank you too, to all generous donors!)

Moreover, they got to learn about ITLP's work and meet past and present volunteers. ITLP teaching artists Sarah Bever and Karis Danish told the crowd of their experiences as ITLP teaching artists.

Sarah highlighted the need for a project like ITLP in education systems which require, but don't always adequately teach, English skills, or where the expression of ideas is not always encouraged. To quote Community Service Advocate Deborah Kelly, "Tanzania is in dire need of educated young people who will be future leaders, doctors and teachers. English is the language of commerce in so much of the world – especially Africa – and mastering it will allow this generation to work their way out of poverty and into productive careers and lives." Similar things can be said about Rwanda, India and other countries ITLP operates.

Karis further explained how the project transforms lives in subtle ways, beyond measurable English skills. In the words of one of the students, Jubleth: “I’ve developed independent thinking and learned how to make plays using my personal stories, dreams, wonders, worries, and what makes people happy or sad. You gave me wings I didn’t know I had. Thank you.”

Click here for more details on the event and go to our Facebook page for photos from the event.

If you couldn't make it, please still consider supporting ITLP with a donation.


ITLP thanks Angels and Friends at intimate soiree

May 8, 2012 – Last night ITLP thanked its Angels and welcomed new friends at an intimate soiree hosted by ITLP Angels Lucy Chudson and Bill Schwartz and ITLP Board member Jonathan Herzog. It was a beautiful, fun and moving event, built around the collective notion that all people deserve a chance to be seen and heard and to be asked “what do you think?”

Around 50 guests mingled with ITLP Board members and fellow supporters of the arts and education at Lucy and Bill’s lovely Upper West Side home.

Gorgeous Broadway singer N'Kenge, accompanied by pianist Fred Barton, serenaded the ITLP donor family, and over drinks and hors d‘oeuvres, they got a chance to learn more about the International Theatre and Literacy Project.

Jonathan Herzog gave a warm welcoming speech and introduced the ITLP team, including Executive Director Marianna Houston who thanked everyone for attending.

Actress and ITLP teaching artist Nilaja Sun described the way ITLP’s playwriting workshops profoundly affect the lives of all the wonderful children we serve in poor rural communities around the world, and how ITLP, with the support of its friends, is able to do so much with so little.

Stephen DiMenna, Chairman of the Board and Director of the 2012 program in South Africa, explained more about the organizations history since 2005 and announced some exciting plans coming up over the next few months. This summer, ITLP will be returning to Rwanda and to two schools in Tanzania. We are also partnering for the first time with JazzArt, a modern dance company, in Cape Town, South Africa, co-conducting workshops for teens in two townships outside of Cape Town – culminating, as always, with an original dance/text performance for their communities at the end of the two weeks of workshops. And in October, ITLP looks forward to returning to India.

We are also looking forward to seeing more of our friends at our upcoming Young Friends of ITLP Spring Benefit on May 21 and at our big fall event (details to follow).

If you are interested in becoming part of the ITLP Angel family contact Marianna at!


The International Theatre & Literacy Project Annual Gala 2011

December 2011 – Against the backdrop of the beautiful Judson Memorial Church in New York City, ITLP welcomed past and present teaching artists, partners, supporters, friends and family for their 7th Annual Gala on December 4, to celebrate the success of the 2011 Playwriting Workshops in Rwanda and Tanzania and announce exciting new projects for 2012.

Featuring special Broadway guests, distinguished speakers, films from the 2011 programs, and a silent auction with sumptuous items from around the world, it was a night to remember.

ITLP co-founders Marianna Houston (Executive Director) and Stephen DiMenna (Chairman of the Board) warmly welcomed the guests and reminded them of ITLP’s mission: to empower the youth in developing countries through the use of theatre.

The importance of ITLP’s work shone through the speakers’ testimonies. While ITLP may not deliver medicine or food to developing countries, the work advances development in another way: by nourishing the souls of children and helping them build their futures.

Tupochele Mtila (pictured with Marianna) from Malawi, the African Women Public Service Fellow at NYU and a young leader dedicated to Africa's future, affirmed the need for youth empowerment, for fostering creativity and innovation – and for building English skills as a basis for higher education.

Anne Heyman, founder of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda (which ITLP visited in 2011), emphasized the importance of ITLP’s workshops in teaching children creativity and independent thinking “in a country in which terrible things happened when people unquestioningly followed orders.”

The evening was also a celebration of the beauty and joy that ITLP’s students and teaching artists experience together.

ITLP Program Directors Didi Goldenhar (Rwanda 2011) and Rebecca Blumhagen (Tanzania 2011) spoke passionately about the children and their experiences. The films from the summer residencies, ITLP in Rwanda 2011 at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village and The Sky is so Far from the Land (about ITLP in Tanzania), conveyed even more powerfully, through the voices of the students themselves, the need for theatre arts, storytelling and the power of discovering individual voice for the human spirit.

Young voices also rang clear when two Broadway stars, Eden Duncan-Smith and Alphonso Jones, who recently played young Nala and young Simba in The Lion King, sang “Just Can't Wait to be King.” As ITLP’s Stephen DiMenna explained, “No show in Broadway history has been able to reflect the splendor of Africa to an American audience greater than The Lion King… and no song better captures the ever-growing courage, fearlessness, and hope of our kids.”


In asking for the continued support of the Gala guests, Stephen summarized ITLP’s achievements to date: “Since 2005, ITLP has not only given 500 students an opportunity to write their own story; but also provided them hot lunches during the length of their workshops. Through your donations, we have been able to award scholarships to every ITLP graduate. With your generous help, we have been able to donate $500 for textbooks to every school we've worked with.”

Looking to the future, Marianna announced plans to not only return to Rwanda and Tanzania in 2012, but to accept invitations from Bhutan, India and South Africa, and hopefully serve 150 students through next year's programs, classes and teacher-centered professional development workshops – with the help of everyone’s donations.

Board Member Emeritus Mary Hedahl joined the ITLP team in their request for support. “Asante Sana means thank you in Swahili. And so, from our hearts to yours we say ASANTE SANA!”

 We could not do this incredible work without the generous contributions from our friends and supporters. Thank you for being an integral part of the ITLP family. If you were not able to make it to our event this year please consider supporting ITLP with a donation.





November 2010 - The 2010 ITLP Annual Gala celebrated this year's Playwriting Workshops in Tanzania and Bali and was a HUGE success! The event took place at the Judson Memorial Church, a historical and beautiful space in New York City's Greenwich village.

The 2010 ITLP Documentary Film gave attendees a glimpse of the work ITLP does in Tanzania, profiling the students and teachers involved in creating and performing live theatre. Mama Tesha, the Headmistress of St. Margaret's Academy in Arusha Tanzania, spoke powerfully about the collaboration between her school and ITLP's work in Tanzania.

We were also honored to have a surprise guest performance by Carlos Fittante, a talented modern dancer who performed a Balinese dance for the energetic crowd. Carlos joined us as a guest artist when the ITLP team travelled to Bali, Indonesia this summer. ITLP Teaching Artists Sarah Bever and Rebecca Blumhagen also spoke to the audience about their unique ITLP experiences working with students in Africa.

This quote from an attendee sums up the spirit of the night:

"Congratulations on an evening filled with warmth, life, connections, generosity and hope. Everyone spoke so beautifully on why ITLP is so important, vital, and effective. And of course, the movie - touching, beautiful, vibrant, deep, soft, and generous. I not only got a feel for the work, but how intimately it was entwined with the lives and experiences that would mold these young souls. I loved meeting and hearing Mama Tesha and her perspective on the work. It was so great to have her there. I hope the attendees were as moved as I was, and showed it with their support!"

If you we unable to attend our November event, but would like to make a tax-deductible donation to ITLP, please consider making a donation online.