HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Breaking barriers, blending cultures, and eliminating stigmas all can be done through the arts. Dr. Melanie Andrews leads the youth on and off the stage at Inner City Shakespeare.

“The arts allows people to put down their societal restrictions, their racial restrictions and get to know people one on one,” said Dr. Andrews.


As an African American woman growing up in Compton, Dr. Andrews saw the lack of theater in her neighborhood. She felt everyone should have the same access to the arts. After pursuing her own personal acting career and getting various degrees, she decided to give back by teaching.

“I didn’t want any barriers because of the color of my skin to any of the beautiful artistic things that exist in the world,” said Dr. Andrews.

Dr. Andrews’ goal is to show that anyone can play any role and take the stage confidently. She feels the arts are important to keep kids focused and out of trouble.

“Instead of fighting or drinking or drugging, it’s a way to get your feelings out and have a lot of fun,” said Dr. Andrews.

She even received the Presidents’ Volunteer Service Award during the Obama Administration for her work. This includes her role as director of Inner City Shakespeare, the theater group she founded. It allows students to audition for roles in the plays performed around L.A., getting valuable acting experience.

“Someone has to teach these students. Many schools in South Central don’t have ballet, orchestra, theater, or art, we try to fill that void,” said Dr. Andrews.

One alum, Juvanie Hildreth, started his career in the group. He said it helped him gain culture and solidify his dream of becoming an actor.

“I’m grateful because this is actually what I want to do with my life. I would say that’s how it changed my life, because it has become my life in a sense,” said Hildreth. Now he comes back to guide other students.

Dr. Andrews sees her students graduate high school and most go on to college with even more continuing a career in the arts in some way. 

“I have dedicated my live to the arts and helping students find their way,” said Dr. Andrews.

Finding their way through Shakespeare.