Tag Archives: thriving

Kids. Theatre. Art.

14 Mar

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Stumbled on a Tumblr last night, linking to others that, all-collected, formed most of a young cast and their experiences of putting on this show.

…Totally fascinating…reading their processes in raw-thought form, thrown out there with zero editing of  their emotions and frustrations as they fought to balance out school schedules, homework, dating, rehearsals, finals and wrapping their heads around the history of the piece.

Written in 2006, these back-and-forth tagged Tumblrs and blogs are free-formed by High School students, who by now have most likely graduated College and gotten married, and started having children of their own.  Which is kinda mind-blowing, even not having known the kids personally…only because of the knowledge that they have this forever-record of that point in their lives, written down (much like Anne), which others can read and experience, further mirroring the book and show itself.

Really intriguing thoughts, actually. 

…Some in simple questioned innocents, some with down-and-dirty sleeves-rolled-up research, some likening their own personal experiences to Anne and their own characters…and some just excited by the whole process.

The thing that really got to me though, was the point…totally individual to each…when they “got it.”  The point where the full weight of what the show and this girl’s experiences were all about, actually sunk into them…and how each of them dealt with it.

Personal. Raw. Specific.

…These kids, through ART, were given a new way to access and view something from history that they already knew about since middle-school.  That restriction of: “this is a book about a teenage girl, in Amsterdam, in WWII,” was suddenly (and in some cases emotionally violently) altered for them once the process of physical “empathy” was put into place.

To read about a girl from the far-past, in a place they could not recognize, and had no tangible relateable association with at first glance…had limited a lot of them at the book’s first reading. Some were embarrassed by it’s pubescent topics, some shut off by the distant time frame in which it was written, some by the country they didn’t recognize…or the Politics they couldn’t understand…while some did actually take it personally and to heart. But the range there was wide.

…Through the process of ownership in their roles, though…you can actually SEE that begin to change…and the kids changing with it.

What they start out writing about in an off-hand remarks, early in the rehearsal process, begins to change to a kind of hungry obsession over time. They begin pulling out quotes from the script, and matching it to the diary…they write mini-bios, and suck up European political history like sponges. They become in awe of the magnitude in the numbers…which are no longer just “numbers,” but for the first time begin to represent actual “people” to them, now that they are actually portraying one of them…each with lives and families and homes and dreams of their own. They begin to question, and get angry, and become activists for a cause which now has become as real to them as anything they may have to deal with in their current day-to-day lives. They build genuine affection for their “characters”…defending their deeds in posts, and against Anne’s words…and explaining WHY they think and act and say the things they do.

…They become totally engrossed, as the posts move along…building not only on their own, but commenting on one another’s in debate, and agreement, and camaraderie.

And it is fucking FANTASTIC.

You see: THIS is what “Art” does.

THIS is why it is so essential, and why it’s disappearance from our Schools is so completely devastating.

“Art” is not just a “hobby.” “Art” isn’t an “extracurricular activity.” “Art” is “Humanity.” Straight-up. It is our one point of access to all that it is (and ever was) to be human. And without it, we are sorely damaging our future potential…and in severe danger of repeating our greatest mistakes.

And HERE is a prime example.

…Written by school children, grown now into adults, who BECAUSE of “art” experienced something so palpable that “History” became alive to them, “Politics” became important, “Numbers” meant more than mere addition and subtraction, the “Written Word” jumped off the pages at them, and “Science” in the research, reason and attempt to understand why and what it all meant, became totally essential to them.

…And yet, with all of that put together, it STILL could not hold the realization of the emotional strength and repercussions that actual “embodiment” had on each of them. The power of empathy…of PUTTING YOURSELF into another’s place…of FEELING the fear, and hunger, and pain, and sadness…of MAKING IT PERSONAL…it changed them, not just as “children” or “students,” but as HUMAN BEINGS.

…Once taught empathy, education, the difference between right and wrong…passion for history and learning…you can’t un-teach it. You can try, attempt to mind-wash and assault the brain all you like. But if given a good, strong, root to grow…early on…I don’t believe there is anything that can break that. Or the spirit it infuses, like Anne’s, to fight for your right to it.

“There are no walls, there are no bolts, no locks that anyone can put on your mind.”

…It was something Mr. Frank once told Anne, and something she often went back to as a form of solace, a comfort, an outlet…a form of expression.

…Because any form of educated obsession, release, curiosity, excitement, empathy…is a kind of art.

Because SHE was encouraged to release herself in it, we have her diary today. Because those kids were encouraged to release themselves in it, their lives were changed. The same way that mine constantly is. And Meryl Streep. And Picasso’s was. And Steven Spielberg. And Maria Callas. And Leonard da Vinci, and Stephen King, and Gertrude Stein, and Albert Einstein, Billie Jean King, and Stephen Hawking.

…So really, what I’m saying is: people learn and become inspired in so many different ways…going on to inspire and educate others, likewise. I’d like to assume you’d want every opportunity you can grasp onto, to make sure your kids get every option to become the best that they can be…as people and parents of their own children someday.

If you already practice an art of your own, there’s no need to tell you this, but if not: Listen up. I promise…it isn’t just a flippant accessory to life. It is a necessity. It’s brought us our greatest humanitarians, and thinkers, and doers we have ever produced as a human race. It breeds intelligence. It fosters hope. It counters depression, and fear, and anger.

It belongs in our schools.

…If only, to dust off the tired words in old textbook pages, and make all the other academics and political concepts and histories and numbers and sciences more real to the people who will be running this planet some day.

Think about it.

~D

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