Listening to the news can be overwhelming! Lately, I’ve limited the amount of time I listen to it, not because I don’t want to be informed, but because it upsets me and sends me to a disheartened place. Frequently, it starts with me just listening, but, more times than not, eventually becomes a participatory event with me confronting out loud what I hear. After fighting with the radio or television, I find myself personally spiraling with many questions. “What can I do to confront the bigotry and hate in the world? Is the work that I do for my young audiences enough? Am I tackling the right subjects to reach tomorrow’s future leaders?” This past fall, feeling particularly defeated with Trump’s America, I even wondered, “What can theatre possibly do in the face of all this right now?”
But then I got an answer to that question that was as clear as any holiday story or movie.
A friend and colleague who works for iTheatrics visited me in Nashville and asked me to accompany him to an event at an Elementary School on a Saturday afternoon. Each year iTheatrics sponsors the Junior Theatre Festival, the world’s biggest celebration of young people performing musical theatre. In January 2019, over 6,000 students will arrive in Atlanta, Georgia to perform, take workshops, and celebrate all things musical theatre. The event my friend took me to was a special Saturday sharing of selections that will be performed at the festival by elementary and middle schools from Tennessee and Alabama.
When I entered the school with my friend on a cold, rainy Saturday, I was not only struck by the sense of joy that permeated from the students of every age, ethnicity, and color present, but also greatly touched by the day’s theme. There, on a huge banner that young people could take group picture or a selfie in front of, was the answer to one of my own questions: #TheatreUnitesUs.
DUH! What can theatre possible do? UNITE!!!!!!
So the next time I doubt, I need to remember those joyous students in that packed gym and think what they might tell me if they heard me ponder what theatre can do again. They believe it can unite us… so I’m hopeful their future and mine.