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Central Square Theater challenges community to ‘Act Up and Vote’

Zyrek Lanier of Youth Underground rehearses "Act Up and Vote!" ahead of this weekend's festival.Nina Groom

Every two years, roughly seven million Americans reach voting eligibility age. That number is the driving force behind Central Square Theater’s Act Up & Vote Festival, a weekend-long lineup of panels, performances, and workshops all designed to increase civic engagement and educate voters.

Starlight Square — an outdoor venue in Central Square — will house the free festival Thursday through Sunday. In partnership with YWCA Cambridge, festival workers will be stationed on-site all weekend to help register attendees ahead of this year’s election.

The festival draws its name from a play created last summer by members of the theater’s Youth Underground ensemble program. The play, also titled “Act Up and Vote!,” is a culmination of interviews with community members about civic engagement conducted by the ensemble over the past two years. It will be performed by Youth Underground five times throughout the festival — Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at noon and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 3 and 7 p.m.

“It’s not just about voting, it’s also the acting up part. It’s about other things you can do to be civically engaged,” Kortney Adams, education manager at Central Square Theater said. “The idea was to activate and amplify the very things our young folks are interested in.”


On Thursday, attendees can stop by Starlight Square from 2 to 4 p.m. and create protest posters displaying their passion for a cause. The posters will decorate the Starlight stage throughout the rest of the festival.

Thursday at 5 p.m. marks the first community workshop event titled “Jump Into Democracy!” For ages 10 and up, it will focus on understanding different points of view and how to create a better world. “Jump Into Democracy!” will occur again on Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m.

A reading of “It’s My Party,” which details suffragettes' fight to enact the 19th amendment, takes place on Starlight stage at 7 p.m. on Thursday. “ID Monologues,” a performance examining how voter ID laws affect queer and transgender people of color, will debut virtually on Zoom and Facebook Live at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.


Panels featuring civic engagement experts have been planned throughout the weekend. On Thursday at 8:30 p.m. panelists will discuss voter disenfranchisement in the United States. Saturday will feature a panel discussion on youth activism and community engagement at 1:30 p.m. A live panel on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. will explore voting barriers for incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people and a virtual panel at 5:30 p.m. asks the question “Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?”

Find the festival schedule and links to RSVP at centralsquaretheater.org. Some walk up tickets will also be available.

Grace Griffin can be reached at grace.griffin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GraceMGriffin.

Grace Griffin can be reached at grace.griffin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GraceMGriffin.