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Hip hop drama camp lets Louisville students pen their own rhymes

A group of children stand  in various poses in front of tarp reading "Hip Hop Herc". The tarp is draped over a U-Haul truck and has images of Greek-style columns on it with a gold wreath and the writing done in green and red letters.
via Morgan Younge
Morgan Younge
At the Hip Hop Herc fall drama camp students take center stage in more ways than one. They both star in the production and help shape it behind the scenes.

Hip Hop Herc camp is a week-long experience that puts student raps on stage. At the end-of-the-week play, students perform original rhymes telling the story of Hercules, the hero of Greek mythology.

Morgan Younge is the camp’s director and wrote both the script and curriculum for “Hip Hop Herc.”

“I wanted to do something that wasn't Shakespeare, but still classical literature,” Younge said.

This is Younge’s second time leading the camp, which is done in collaboration with Looking for Lilith Theatre Company and Fund for the Arts.

She said wanted to go beyond giving students pre-written work to perform.

“I wanted to do something where the students get to be involved in some of the writing process, and learn about the similarities between poetry and rap, or verse in rap and just give students a different perspective,” Younge said.

She left a part of the play unwritten. That is where the students’ rhymes come into play.

“The students will get the opportunity to write two raps, one for Hercules and one for the monster or his foe,” Younge explained. “Then we actually have a rap battle in camp. And the two students who raps win get to actually perform their own raps in the play.”

Throughout the course of the free week-long camp, students will get to learn from poets, choreographers and other performance artists about the creative process behind staging a production.

Students will also work behind the scenes to create props, costumes and more.

Younge said by giving the students partial control over the creative process and a place to perform, they transform.

“I definitely saw students taking ownership last time really going into the flow,” Younge said. “Just gaining confidence.”

In “Hip Hop Hercules,” no one student is the main character the whole time. They trade a mask and gold chain to signify to the audience who Hercules is during any given scene.

The camp is specifically created for students of color living in west Louisville and other underserved communities.

“It's my community, that's where I live,” Younge said. “ I want to see them have this opportunity.”

The camp will be held at Jefferson County Public Schools Shawnee Satellite Office on West Market, which Younge hopes will alleviate some transportation concerns.

It is also free to students and takes place during JCPS’ fall break Oct. 2 - Oct. 7. And will culminate in a performance at the St. James Court Art Fair. Interested students from ages 9 to 14 can register on Looking for Lilith’s website.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

News Youth Reporting
Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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