Beyond Oz

What an incredible journey we went on last semester! Somehow, in the midst of a world pandemic which meant that all kinds of new socially distant guidelines had to be enforced, we were able to still pull off a semester of classes and a mainstage production! None of it looked like our normal class offerings, and in fact the production was played to empty seats, but it was still every bit as incredible as previous years. Somehow our students were still able to maintain connections and build as a team, even despite the restrictions and strange new rules.

This video gives a glimpse of last semester and paves the way for our next semester, starting in January! We are offering classes in all areas of the arts just like always. Some are online, some are in person, and some offer both options! Our junior production will be performed on a local stage, fully staged with sets and lights, filmed to be livestreamed for our audiences at home. Our Spring Play will feature scenes from classic theatre pieces such as “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Waiting for Godot” and will also be held on a local stage to be livestreamed.

Our choir classes have all been moved to a later spring semester where they will all perform together in an outdoor spring concert! So even though we are unfortunately still in this strange new world of covid, we are continuing to blaze a path through the pandemic together. Register today as class sizes will continue to be kept small. Click the links below for each department!

As always feel free to contact us with any questions! From all of us at Illuminate, have a Merry Christmas, Happiest of Holidays, and may your New Year be filled with hope! The world has had quite a year, but we made it. There is hope and light ahead.

For all of us,

Jennifer Keating Roca, Director

Illuminate in Progress >>

Just a few days left to give to our Annual In Progress Fund Drive. These pictures are a glimpse of the work you are supporting in the arts:

So far this semester, we have launched Salt+Light (our performance outreach team in their 7th year bringing meaningful performance art to youth groups, schools, and more), introduced Serve Up (a new service outreach team dedicated to serving local food pantries, soup kitchens, and other community groups), offered classes in all areas of the arts to all ages, and we are in the last weeks of rehearsal for our 8th mainstage production, “The Wizard of Oz.”

All while walking through a pandemic.

Perhaps we could have taken the semester–or the year–off. The cost of CDC-approved cleaners, masks, gloves, and sanitation systems as well as three new air purifiers – combined with the losses of lower enrollment, fewer classes so as to properly social distance, and loss of ticket revenue – has put us in a tight spot this year.

But we have hope. We believe in the power of the arts to bring communities together, to provide an outlet for healing, and to encourage gifts and talents in students who might not ever have the opportunity to do so. By keeping our costs low and offering lots of scholarships, discounts, and tuition assistance programs, we have been able to provide these opportunities to hundreds of students over the past 8 years.

But we can’t keep this up without your support. If there was ever a time to support the arts, this is it. Your donation, shout out, or ad will help build a foundation for generations of students to shine.

To learn more, and to give, click here.

what does it mean to be at the “end of an era?”

first…. a video (in case you haven’t seen)…

What does it mean to be at the “end of an era?”

It can have many meanings, but in general the phrase signifies something changing, or ending in some form. We recently had two volunteers retire, Trish Mclernon and Traci Macomber, and many have said it’s the end of an era. The company will look different now as they step away, just as it did years ago when founding member Kim Beck and her family moved.

We also saw 13 seniors graduate, and our biggest Salt+Light team move on. This, too, marks the end of an era.

The company has made some big changes this year, not the least of which is a name change and rebranding. The era of being known as “a work in progress” is over.

The concept behind the “illuminate” brand is similar to that of AWIP —but more refined. Miss Jen lived in New York on 9/11 and never forgot what it look like the first time they used lights to represent the fallen towers. The lights were brighter than the entire city around it and shot up for miles into the sky. From far away, they looked like single beams of light bursting out of the city. But up close, they were really made up of hundreds of smaller lights, working together: stronger and brighter together.

Cole Paul and Till Productions captured this perfectly in the announcement video and the logo. Just like the 9/11 lights could never replace the towers, So it is that those who have built the foundations of this company will never be replaced. They will always be honored as part of the foundation, celebrated as the dreamers and visionaries that they were, and pillars of the company.

Annie, 2014

To all who have been a light to us and this community, thank you for the past seven years. And to all who are continuing to build with us today as we face this pandemic, thank you for being dreamers and visionaries. May we be a community and a company that encourages light and never gives up on each other….

Learn • Grow • Shine

May the next era honor the past while looking ahead with hope.

Jennifer Keating Roca, Director

for all of us at illuminate

p.s. classes are now listed for next season! Including the next mainstage: The Wizard of Oz!

Announcing an exclusive workshop and triple master class!

With our regular classes taking a break over February vacation, we thought it would be a great opportunity to throw together a one-of-a-kind workshop to break up the winter blues.

A one-day workshop where students will collaborate on an original piece, while learning technique from professionals!

One of the first events this company hosted was a master class. The concept behind master classes was to allow students to get a glimpse of what professionals in the field. Over the years we have covered all areas of the arts, from music to acting to film, photography, Shakespeare, and more. But never have these master class resulted in a finished work… and never have we given space for students to create an original piece.

On Thursday, February 20 from 1:00-4:30, students will have an exclusive opportunity to explore film, photography, music, and acting for film… creating an original piece that will be performed at the end of class *and* filmed! Several professional coaches will be on hand, including Raymond Santos and Brian Keith Arnold (a photographer/videographer based out of Norton, MA).  More coaches will be joining as well in this exciting opportunity.

Click here for more info and to register!

As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!


Miss Jen, for all of us at AWIP

Salt+Light 2020 is here!

We are pleased to announce that Salt+Light is now accepting bookings for its 6th season! This acclaimed performance outreach team is ready to bring messages of hope and light through energetic improvisation, thought-provoking sketches, music, and more. With themes including Navigating Social Media, Working Through Conflict, and Understanding what it Means to Love: this year’s team will have audiences laughing and toe-tapping while being challenged and inspired.

Over the past 6 years, our team has traveled to schools (public, private, Christian), nursing homes, youth groups, churches, and other community groups to rave reviews. Their calendar is expected to fill up fast, so if you want them at your next event, book them today!

Click here to learn more about them and to submit your booking request!

While you’re browsing around, don’t forget to register for classes beginning in January, apply for an internship, buy a Beauty + the Beast DVD (and merchandise!), and register for the Improv workshop on Jan 2! We *always* have exciting things going on and there’s lots of opportunities for you to be a part of it.


Miss Jen, for all of us at AWIP

Improv+the Industry: a new master class

A Work in Progress held its first master class 7 years ago with the Worcester Shakespeare Company, to an eager crowd of about 40 students ages 10-18. There was a snowstorm that day, but the workshop went on as scheduled, and we were surprised to see the tremendous turnout despite the weather! As the students interacted with the professional actors and learned not only about performing, but about Shakespeare… we knew that master classes would become a staple offering.

Master classes are a chance for students to engage with professionals in all areas of the arts. Typically, these professionals are local… but this time, L.A.-based actor Gregory Hoyt will be with us! A Massachusetts native, Greg will be leading a workshop covering all things improv… and the industry. Students ages 12+ are encouraged to attend as they will not only be challenged as performers, but will learn a bit about what it takes to be an actor in L.A., NYC, and beyond!

Gregory Hoyt is a professional actor and improviser with many TV, Film and Theatre credits to his name including J. Edgar, Rampage, Patriots Day, Life With Dog, Surviving Theater 9, The Adult Swim Golf Classic, The Lafayette Escadrille, The Millionaire’s Unit, Heroes, Hart of Dixie, Greek and Campus Ladies.Gregory is a founding member of Foreign Study, a Los Angeles based production company that focuses on creating short form improvisational comedy content. 

In 2018, Gregory starred in the film “Surviving Theater 9” which was selected to World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.In 2017, Gregory originated the role of Seth Laurie in the Theatrical World Premiere of “The Engine of Our Ruin” by Jason Wells with the L. A. Times saying: “Gregory Hoyt stands out as a naif diplomatic assistant who is more stoned than savvy.” Gregory has starred in over 75 National / International commercials and has performed in hundreds of Improv shows throughout the country.He has appeared onstage in Los Angeles at the Groundlings Theater, U.C.B. Franklin, the Elephant Theater, the Victory Theater, ACME Theater, Center Theater Group and the Ahmanson Theater. Gregory has a B.A. in Theater from UMass Amherst and he currently teaches Improvisation and Acting at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theater in Los Angeles.

This Master Class will be held on Thursday, January 2 from 2-4 at Trinity Community Church in Norwood. Those of you in the Attleboro/North RI area: it will be worth the trip! It is for ages 12+ (suggested. Graduates/alumni and friends welcome!). For more details and to register, click here.

As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions!


Miss Jen – for all of us at AWIP

R E F L E C T I O N S : part 2

Every year, I ask one or two seniors to write up a reflection post on their time at AWIP as they take their final bow in a mainstage production. This year, we have *so* many seniors that I thought I would open it up to all of them. A few were able to get something to me in the short timeframe I gave them, and here they are. Whether they have been with the company for 6 years or just a few months, they have all made significant contributions to our community and that is something worthy of reflection.

Hannah (6 years)

Leaving the stage is such a difficult goodbye. The socially nervous girl I was the first time the lights hit my face, hasn’t gone away, but rather she learned there was no fear in living. The stage taught me that.

With every character I was given the opportunity to play, I slowly found bits and pieces of myself in each one. As time passed I thought to myself, “this character is so confident and lively, maybe I could be like that too.” I expected theatre to be all pretend. A place where you are anything but your true self, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I take with me as I leave the stage is my passion for theatre, and my love for all the people within it. And at the same time, I take a new way of looking at who I am, and what I am capable of. through what I thought was “faking it” I found something extremely real and present. Myself.

Sam (3 years)

As I took my final bow I was able to recall everything I had been through to get to that final bow: the nervousness before the show, the laughs I shared with the people around me, all those Thursday rehearsals, my excitement after seeing the cast list, and how anxious I was for callbacks.

Thank you, A Work in Progress, for letting me be a part of your incredible shows, for all the friendships i’ve made with the cast and crew, and for giving me an unforgettable senior year.

Julia (5 years)

As those beautiful lights shone on me for my last bow, I was hit by a wave of emotion. I remembered 13 year old me, crying in fear before joining The Wiz, my first ever Mainstage.

I was afraid of all the people I didn’t know, of auditioning in front of strangers, of performing in front of hundreds… little did I know that those strangers and cast mates would become my best friends, and I would love the tolman stage like it was my second home. I am so grateful for the five years I have spent as a part of this company. I’ve learned to love who I truly am, and to openly be myself in front of others. I’ve found lifelong friends. And most importantly, I’ve learned that everything happens for a reason. God’s plan is always in the works, and it may not be what’s in mine. (Cue 8th grade Julia wanting to drop mainstage before it even began). So, when I rose from my final bow, holding hands with those who I hold closest in my heart, I looked out on to the stage, and said goodbye to the place that brought me tears of sadness and joy. I realized although I am saying goodbye to AWIP, I am not letting go of the priceless values and experiences that will be a part of me forever. Thank you to each and every person who has helped me become who I am today. I am forever grateful.

Josiah (1 year)

Taking my first and last bow at Tolman was  touching and fulfilling. Having accomplished so much during the 12 weeks was rewarding but saying goodbye to the stage was equally as difficult.

I regret not listening to my friends way back in freshman year telling me to do AWIP shows because of how much fun they were. Truly, A Work in Progress Productions is a company that fosters community and friendship, both onstage and off. It has taught me how to be a better actor, singer, dancer, and human being. I’m thankful for all the people I’ve met along the way. The instructors are phenomenal and really show an interest in each one of us and I cherish the times spent performing with some pretty unforgettable people. Love you all! – josiah

Demetri (2 years)

In the past three months, AWIP has helped me discover and grow a part of myself I didn’t realize was there. Apart from the amazing time, I know the friendships I’ve formed will last.

I hope to continue building on the acting skills, confidence, and general experience I’ve gained here, and give back to AWIP as well. Thank you to Miss Jen and the whole cast and crew. Love you all.

Cami (2 years)

As I stepped forward with the other seniors to take the final bow, I thought to myself, This is where it ends. But does it really?

Though the show itself has ended, the memories will always be somewhere in my mind, eternally ingrained into the hippocampus, available to recall at any time. And like those memories, I know I’ll have the truly wonderful friends I’ve made in my short time at AWIP for just as long. This particular production of Beauty and the Beast has been my all-time favorite, and I’ve done the show twice! So, as I waved goodbye to the audience, my brain corrected itself. This isn’t the end. It certainly won’t be my last performance, or the last time I see an AWIP show. And I’ll hold these precious memories of the friends I’ve made, the shows I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of, and the overall AWIP experience especially close to me as I continue on the mysterious rollercoaster of life. 

“I go, I go; look how I go/Swifter than the arrow from the Tartar’s bow.”  –Puck, A Midsummers Night’s Dream

Noah (5 years)

Awip has been such a major part of my life over the last four years and I’m sad for the final curtain to close.

This show has definitely been crazy at some points but everyone pulled together and put on the best production yet. Working with everyone in the cast and crew has been a true blessing this year and as I leave I will truly miss awip. I’m going to remember these times for the rest of my life. 

Graham (5 years)

Thank you to everyone who made my last year at AWIP so amazing. I’m so proud of the entire cast and crew for all the hard work and dedication they put into it. I’m so grateful to all the friendships I’ve made and all the people that supported me through everything.

Thank you, A Work in Progress Productions, for helping me become the person I am today. I couldn’t have asked for a better show to end my AWIP career than this one.

Kelsey (6 years)

To the stage that gave me so much and to the company that molded me; you have walked me through the past six years of my life and given me countless opportunities to shine, grow, and progress into who I am today.

I cherish every second I got with you, every relationship you gave me, and the millions of memories I have been blessed with, thanks to you. there are no words that express how it feels to say goodbye, but my heart is so tenderly filled to the brim with gratefulness that it eases the sting. I love each and every one of you who has walked with me, I could never forget you or the impact you have had on me. Thank you for being home for six years. Here’s to our tomorrows.

Here’s a few moments from their previous years on the stage… and *many* more like this will follow as we enter our spring semester and take aim at The Progress Show in May, where we honor our seniors and send them off into the world to shine! Be sure to follow us on all the socials and subscribe to our newsletter and blog to be up to date with our upcoming events so you can celebrate these kids alongside us.

To the seniors and the entire cast: thank you. Thank you for taking the chance with us and tiptoeing out into the spotlight to let your light shine. Thank you for serving as a team and serving the community together. It has been an honor to work with you as your director and to now send you off to bring your light to the communities that await you. Hugs+high fives+ much love!

Miss Jen, for all of us at AWIP

p.s. want to see what their journey was like as a cast? Check out the annual Bloopers Reel, below, for a glimpse!

Reflections • Part One

A week after we closed the final curtain on our seventh mainstage production, so many of us find ourselves reflecting on this experience that was much more than putting on a show. These performances are the culmination of months of hard work, a true collaboration among a team of creatives, working to showcase the talents of an incredible community of students both on and offstage.

In this “Reflections: Part One” post, I am publishing the letter that I wrote in this year’s playbill. This is the first time I have published it beyond the playbill, but I can’t stop thinking about the theme of this year’s production. The concept of “beauty within” is timeless, and so needed in today’s culture of making snap judgements about people based on first impressions, or based on their mistakes or brokenness that might be masking what is underneath.

A Note from the Director

I’m going to date myself here, but I still remember the day that I first saw Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast” in the movie theatre. I was awestruck at the animation and loved the musical numbers, but there was something else about it that I couldn’t put my finger on at the time. I became mildly obsessed with it, memorizing nearly the entire script and forcing my friends to watch it over and over again at sleepovers. This wasn’t the typical Disney princess story.

Years later, while working for Disney Theatrical Productions on Broadway, it just so happened that “Beauty and the Beast” was their top show at the time. I was able to work with the designers and see the show several times on broadway. This behind-the-scenes glimpse at how they brought the animated film to life was an incredible experience. Yet still, I couldn’t put my finger on what it was about the story that captivated me.

Many of you know the basic storyline for this classic piece of literature. You may remember the young prince who is spoiled, selfish, and unkind. A curse is placed on him and his entire castle: He becomes a beast while they are transformed into objects. You may remember the beautiful villager named Belle who always stood out from the crowd, never quite fitting into the mold. When her father gets lost in the woods and stumbles upon the castle, he is taken prisoner. Belle offers to take his place so that he could be set free…and that’s when things begin to change for Belle, and the Beast. 

Yet underneath the basic storyline and transformation that we see happen throughout the story, there’s an even deeper theme. If we really think about it, we can all identify with both beauty and the beast. We have all struggled with being unkind, like the young prince. We have all suffered brokenness in our lives that affects others. And like Belle, we are often misunderstood. And the only way that we can be who we are created to be — our true and whole selves — is through finding True Love. The Love that heals the brokenhearted and binds up the scars of living in a broken world. The Love that sees us for who we are inside, the beauty that is in all of us (though sometimes hidden under scars). 

The tale we share with you tonight no fairy tale. It can be a reality in our own lives if we let it. It is a tale of True Love breaking the curse. 

A tale as old as time. 

With gratitude, we invite you to be our guest as we present our seventh MainStage production.

Jennifer Keating Roca

to my cast + crew + team: you inspire me to reach higher. This year more than ever, it has been my honor to work with you and among you. New things await.


Miss Jen

Next up: reflections from our seniors…

Spring+Summer @illuminate

I’m not sure about you, but within the walls of Illuminate, we are *very* excited about spring approaching and the possibility of this pandemic coming to a close… or at least lessening to some extent. To celebrate this, we have a bunch of NEW classes and workshops over a 6-week timespan now accepting registration!

From Music to Dance to Art and more, students have opportunities to learn new skills in an encouraging atmosphere. Our Music Classes will be working on a Spring Outdoor Concert to be held on May 20 (weather permitting), while our other classes are “just for fun.” Music is running on a 6-week schedule while Tap and Ballet are running on a 4-week schedule.

Included in our Extended Spring Semester…

The Art of Workshops >>

We will be holding one-day workshops for four weeks on Thursdays! Students will learn from professionals in their field on a variety of topics.

Click here to learn more about our Extended Spring Semester!

Summer Workshops are BACK!

After a two-year hiatus, we are thrilled to bring back the workshops that originally but this company on the map. Summer workshops are a show-in-a-week and are SO much fun.

Revolution: How Broadway explored the American and French Revolutions.

Oh yes, we are combining LES MISERABLES and HAMILTON in this epic workshop for ages 12-18 in June.


Where our favorite characters from the world of gaming meet and go on an adventure! For ages 6-12 in July.

Click here to learn more about our Summer Workshops and to register!

We can’t wait to see familiar faces and meet new ones and to celebrate all things creative and community this spring and summer. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

#learngrowshine – and hope!

Jennifer Keating Roca, Director, for all of us at illuminate