Village triathlete goes extra mile for youth program


By Judith Stiles

When strolling up the promenade along the Hudson River, don’t be shocked if you see swimmers vigorously stroking upriver, and don’t call 911. These swimmers will take the plunge on purpose, to be part of the Ford New York City Triathlon on Sun., July 10. The athletes will bike 25 miles from Yonkers, run 6 miles ending in Central Park, on top of swimming 1 mile in the Hudson River in wetsuits.

One of these brave souls is Greenwich Village resident, Christopher Street (yes, that is his given name) who is participating to help raise money for the All Stars Project, a nonprofit performing arts center that was created in 1983 to engage inner-city youth in theater arts. To prepare for this triathlon, Street, a former wrestler and graduate of University of Michigan, is training with other athletes six days a week at Chelsea Piers. When he is not working out, he is challenging potential donors to contribute funds to the All Stars Project if he meets the challenge of completing the triathlon along with up to 3,000 other athletes, many of whom are also raising funds for a variety of charities.

The All Stars Project works with more than 8,000 young people from inner-city communities, as Street puts it, to improve their lives using theater and performance as a vehicle to help kids become better learners and leaders.”

Unlike many jaded educators of today, Street does not write off teenagers who have been labeled failures. On the contrary, he sees theater and dance as a viable alternative to violence and destructive behavior, and a means, as he says, “to teach young adults life skills that will help them pursue their interests effectively throughout life.”

Last Sunday, 365 New York City children and teens danced, rapped and sang their hearts out in a citywide talent show at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn. This was the culmination of months of preparing and rehearsing, much of which was done in All Stars’ new performing arts center at 543 W. 42 St. The performance projects are started within neighborhoods and schools throughout the city, resulting in many teenagers continuing with the program and commuting to 42 St. The All Stars program has also coordinated paid summer internships to place teenagers within companies such as Merrill Lynch where teens get a taste of what it’s like to work in the corporate world.

This year, Youth On Stage, a satellite program of All Stars, successfully performed “Robin Hood: A Political Romance” at one of their three theaters on 42 St. This gritty commentary based on the original Robin Hood legend, included contemporary language, throat slitting and fierce rivalries where the difference between heroes and villains became blurred. It was written by Dan Friedman and presented by teenage actors, and it is just one of many performances that you can read about on their Web site at www.AllStars.org.

In the calendar of events for the All Stars Project there is a little break in July, perhaps because Chris Street will be recuperating as well as celebrating a successful triathlon. Not only will the All Stars Project benefit from the triathlon, but it surely will be a milestone, a moment in Greenwich Village history, when Chris Street swims in the Hudson River, and passes Christopher Street.