I know The Golden Globes and Arts Education seem not to have a lot in common but see if you can follow me (I wish you luck).
I watched The Golden Globes the other night but only half-enthusiastically. The movies this year haven't really excited me or I guess I haven't seen enough of them to care. I'm not sure what it is. I've seen some good movies but I guess I just don't care who wins.
Don't get me wrong, I'll watch The Oscars (well, after my show, I have a performance that night of Romeo and Juliet) and love it but I'm not so invested in who wins.
I did love Ricky Gervais though (he hosted The Globes), especially his irreverence; he made fun of everyone and everything Hollywood. He put it well when he said, "It's not like I'm going to be doing this again." As true as it might be, I enjoyed that he was pulling the Hollywood elite down a peg. Sometimes, I think they live in such a fake world, they truly feel the work they are doing is life-altering. I believe it was during Adrian Brody's Oscar acceptance speech for The Pianist, that he stopped the "get off the stage music" with "This is important."
Really? A gold statue for PLAYING a Holocaust survivor is important? I'm thinking the actual Holocaust might be oh, just slightly more important. As much as I love the movies and Hollywood, I do think they are full of it sometimes.
But at the end of The Golden Globes, Jim Cameron won for Avatar and he said, "Give yourselves as a hand. We have the greatest job in the world." It was nice to hear someone recognize that. I mean, I work in theater, I hardly make any money, but it's truly the best job in the world.
So that's a long way around to thinking about how exactly I can help the world. I just saw a French movie called The Class about a teacher in an economically disadvantaged arrondissement of Paris. It chronicles a school year as he deals with a class of teenagers who don't want to learn, or have trouble learning. Many of them are immigrants and dealing with home problems and the government, etc. Plus, over the weekend, I had dinner with my sister who works in such a school in Bridgeport, CT. So these people are doing good work, helping students in less than glamorous education. Now, that's important, Mr. Brody.
So, how is what I do important? Or is it important? Here's my answer (rationale?):
Teaching students math, English (French in the case of the film), reading, et cetera gives them the tools they will need to help them get out of their current situation. What arts education and theater in particular, can help them with is the desire and courage to try to change their situation. Growing up in an impoverished setting and seeing the same people stuck in the same jobs with no money does not give anyone incentive to break out and try to change their circumstances. Theater can teach young people that they are not alone; the emotions they have are universal and, that they can choose a different path.
I'll take Romeo and Juliet as an example since I'm reading that show right now in prep for rehearsals. The society that Romeo and Juliet live in chooses violence as a way to deal with their emotions. The "feud" between the Capulets and Montagues is described only as an "ancient feud." It has been going on so long, no one knows what it's about; they just know they don't like each other. Out of this society come two people who defy everything they have learned and love each other, and would rather die than live in the conventions of this "hateful" society. It's a powerful lesson; love is stronger than hate. But will such a tale really help troubled students?
I think it's possible. I think it's possible to expand people's minds with stories; to allow them to experience different situations or similar situations where different choices are made. I may be wrong, I don't know, but I do know that I feel more empowered when I know that someone out their feels the same way I do.
If you've made it all the way down here, thanks for listening and I'd love to hear your thoughts.