Mission & History
The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company's mission is to empower youth in underserved and at-risk environments with the means and methods necessary to explore personal and social conflicts and develop self-esteem, communication and coping skills to make positive life choices and become productive members of the community.
Our vision is to be a source of compassion, strength and support for youth in underserved and at-risk environments; to give them a voice that is heard, valued and respected; and to be a bridge that helps them make positive life choices.
- We are committed to a performing arts mentoring curriculum proven to transform the participants.
- We are sensitive to individual needs, but demand hard work, full participation and accountability.
- We recognize and honor the talents and dedication of our professional artists, volunteers and staff.
- We are a symbol of leadership and are respected in the communities we serve.
- We enlighten audiences with inspiring, personal stories created and performed by the participants.
- We strive to align with other supportive groups and agencies that also guide these youth.
- We care because all children deserve the chance for a bright future.
In 1993, actress Laura Leigh Hughes founded The Unusual Suspects in response to deteriorated community relations resulting from the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Designed to assist youth in underserved and at-risk environments, The Unusual Suspects offers intensive10-week (60-80 hours) theatre arts mentoring workshops to help participants develop the self-esteem, communication and coping skills necessary to make positive life choices and be a productive member of the community.
Using an instructional program of theatrical story development and script writing, improvisation techniques, onstage performance and audience interaction, professional teaching artists help youth examine personal and social conflicts. A 3-to-1 student-teacher ratio provides a high degree of individualized attention, and participants are encouraged to seek continued support and assistance through the alumni program.
Not only has The Unusual Suspects become a model mentoring program in the Los Angeles area, demonstrating success with a variety of youth segments, including children in foster care, students in low-income neighborhoods, gang members and those in juvenile corrections facilities, empirical data proves that the cost benefit of creative services such as these saves communities millions of dollars annually. For it costs $40,000 to $100,000 to incarcerate one youth for one year and only $1,800 for The Unusual Suspects to provide an individual with performing arts mentoring, which studies show is highly-effective at deterring crimes and destructive behavior in the first place.
The performing arts curriculum, which adheres to California state standards, is comprised of two consecutive 10-week workshops; one focused on developing a story and script and another producing the completed stage play. In these workshops, youth increase their language and writing skills, learn how to work collaboratively to accomplish a singular goal and develop lifelong problem-solving skills.
The Unusual Suspects also provides community outreach to engender more sustainable solutions to localized problems such as gang violence and school dropout rates. Furthermore, the organization partners with the Gang Reduction and Youth Development and the Prevention Initiative, city and county programs dedicated to this cause. Not only has The Unusual Suspects been nationally recognized with the Coming Up Taller Award, the nationís highest honor for out-of-school arts programming, it continuously endeavors to be a source of strength and support so that every child has a hopeful future.
feel strongly that we are all connected, and The Unusual
Suspects strengthens my belief each year we have been in
existence. The children in this program have such enormous
potential; unleashed, their work is a source of incredible power
for themselves, our communities, and our nation."