Empowered Players is a Fluvanna-based nonprofit 501(c)(3)designed to make a difference in the community through the arts. We promote youth empowerment, are dedicated to community service, and believe the arts have the power to unite.
Our mission is to uplift the human spirit through access to quality arts experiences, youth empowerment, and community service.
Jessica Harris is the Founder and Artistic Director of Empowered Players, a 501(c)3 arts education nonprofit in rural Virginia dedicated to uplifting the human spirit through access to quality arts experiences, youth empowerment, and community service. A veteran performer and director, she’s directed and produced a number of works locally including with Four County Players, the University of Virginia, and The Kennedy Center. Jessica holds a Master’s in Educational Psychology from the University of Virginia, where she also earned an Interdisciplinary B.A in arts nonprofit management & education. Her work centers on examining the intersection of arts, education, and social justice. Her TEDx Talk titled “The Transformative Power of Theater in Rural Communities” highlights her work, and she provides over twenty different programs for K-12 students year-round.
Sharon Harris serves as program and grant manager. Her experience includes program development, community mental health counseling, nonprofit management, community organizing, grant writing, education, and marketing. She holds a BA from UVA and an MEd from the Curry School of Education.
Co-Director and Dramaturg
Sav Maive is an emerging theatre and film artist, currently based in Charlottesville. She recently graduated from UVA where she attained a BA in Drama and grew as an artist and educator - gaining experience in acting, directing, writing, dramaturgy, and teaching.
Joshua Harris is a high school student who enjoys performing onstage and in films. His favorite theater roles include Lyncoya in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, with UVa Department of Drama and Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas, with Empowered Players. In addition to his role of Jamie in Technicolour Daydream, Joshua has appeared in the award-winning short film, Elemental and the soon to be released Machinery of Dreams. Joshua also enjoys working behind the camera making short films, music videos, and documentaries.
Mission and Vision: Empowered Players is a Fluvanna-based nonprofit
501(c)(3) designed to make a difference in the community through the arts. We
promote youth empowerment, are dedicated to community service, and believe
the arts have the power to unite.
Empowered Players seeks to uplift the human spirit by bringing quality arts
experiences to communities with limited access to arts education and
performance opportunities. Our goal is to expand access to the arts to bring
the associated benefits of academic and personal development to underserved
individuals, and communities.
Toward that goal, Empowered Players programming includes free classes and
camps to be held at area community centers, theaters, schools, churches, and
any locale where kids are welcome and music is encouraged. The learning
programs created by Empowered Players are designed to teach life skills and
instill values that translate to the world beyond the stage. Drawing on a range
of theatrical learning experiences and activities, Empowered Players cultivates
an environment where young people can grow and thrive, both as individuals
and as members of a cooperative team.
History: Empowered Players was founded by then high-school student, Jessica
Harris out of her passion for the arts and strong desire to share that passion
with others. Far too often these benefits are limited to those residing in
metropolitan areas. Likewise, families with limited economic resources are
often unable to provide their children with acting, vocal or dance training, or
tickets to professional performances. Thus, Jessica created Empowered Players
as a vehicle to bring arts training and performance opportunities to youth in
her community. Partnering with the local arts council, a local performance
group, the county parks and recreation department, and other community
members, Jess secured free space to offer classes and camps. EP began with a
summer of free camps, classes, and performances, and quickly led to the
formation of an acting troupe, the continuation of arts training during the
school year, the addition elementary and middle school acting troupes, and the
production of live performances during the school year, as well as in the
summer. In its first summer, EP served 12 students. With phenomenal growth,
EP now works with over 100 students on an ongoing basis, and entertains
hundreds of students and family community members through community
What We Do:
• Empowered Players offer accessible arts education and performance
opportunities for young people.
• Through arts education and mentorship Empowered Players expose
young people to the magic of the performing arts. Ultimately, the goal of
this program is to acquaint area youth with the wonder and
transformative power of working together to create live theater.
• The learning programs created by Empowered Players are designed to
teach life skills and instill values that translate to the world beyond the
stage. Drawing on a range of theatrical learning experiences and
activities, Empowered Players cultivates an environment where young
people can grow and thrive, both as individuals and as members of a
• Empowered Players engages in a multi-faceted approach to theatre
education. We emphasize not only the traditional elements of acting,
singing, and dancing, but we make it our priority to help in the
development of respectful, thoughtful, reflective, and aware young people
equipped with the life skills and sense of purpose they need to be
successful students and future leaders empowered to leave a positive
mark in their community.
Denise Folley is a native from Charlottesville, Virginia who has a BA In Theatre arts from Davis & Elkins College. Since her departure from college she has been able to teach theatre outside her hometown like; The Old Brick Playhouse Company, Stagedoor Manor and Arkansas Repertory theatre. Now that she is back in Charlottesville she has made herself busy by acting in shows with Live Arts and the Charlottesville Player Guild, started directing shows with DMR ADVENTURES, teaching classes with Empowered Players, and has become the Assistant Theatre Director at Charlottesville High School while also working as a Prgram Assistant with Boys & Girls Club. Denise also has had the amazing opportunity to become the Vice Chair for the Theatre of Youth position with the Virginia Theatre Association.