The Never Again Movement, and the huge marches it inspired on March 24 in the USA, after the killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, vouch impressively for a potential for engagement from youth that is commonly forgotten.
800 demonstrations ran on this day. Set up in a few days, and led by young people, including survivors of the shooting, these marches have much to say about these one's ability to understand the world, and to formulate a political interpretation against a majority opinion in their country. Millions of children, adolescents, young adults, and parents hit the streets demanding their representatives in government take non-ambiguous action against firearms. Those we too often see as a generation of harmless consumers of social networks, have, on the contrary, taken advantage of all the power of their expertise in this area. And, in their own name, they have surely begun to succeed where adults, until now, have failed: to end the epidemic of gun violence that, in American schools and communities, kills 1300 children each year.
Jonathan Chapman, Executive Director of TYA/USA, the American center of ASSITEJ, astutely remarked, as well as an article in the Newyorker, that many of these young leaders in the Never Again Movement do theatre as part of their studies. Emma Gonzalez herself, the 18 years old schoolgirl, who, during the Washington march, shook up the world by her 6 minutes silence, had just left her drama course when the shooting burst out.
As Chapman emphasizes, theatre not only teaches children to better express themselves in public, but also "TYA encourages young people to passionately find their voice, ask questions, and advocate for their beliefs. (It) offers the powerful opportunity of representation and recognition of one’s own experience, validated and explored on stage.” André Degaine, French theatre historian and author who published an amazing "Drawn History of Theatre Explained to Young People", would add that "from Greeks to nowadays, great theater has always been civic". In the city, ever, in constantly renewed ways through centuries and cultures, theatre explores the less understandable, and, often, the darkest aspects of human experience, and brings this questioning into public places. 2500 years before #neveragain, Aeschylus, in The Oresteia, addressed murder, revenge, forgiveness, and the legitimacy of the use of violence!
Art has no magic wand, you will tell me. And violence against the weakest, first and foremost, against children, ravages the world, and leaves us with an immense feeling of helplessness. But they are everywhere– artists, teachers, parents,– those who commit, almost always by personal belief, and who make theatre for or with young people, who tell them tales, who build them puppets. ASSITEJ is here to remind those who want things to change, that supporting them is the beginning of a solution.