Friday, October 1, 2010
Hooray for Culture
When I took over the reigns of Drama Club a few years ago, one of the goals I had was to try to get the kids out to see as much theatre as I could. We are lucky in that we live in an area with access to a lot of live theatre thanks to three area colleges and an active community theatre group. Over the course of the past three or so years, my students have had access to a wide variety of theatre experiences -- from modern comedies like Moonlight and Magnolias to 20th century classics like The Crucible to legendary classics like Hamlet. For a lot of these kids, their participation in a Drama Club "outing" is their first exposure to live theatre outside of what we create here at school. To this day, I have students who saw Hamlet as freshmen and talk about it with such reverence and love.
Last night, my students had the opportunity to see a local college production of The Learned Ladies by Moliere. I'm a huge fan of Moliere (I almost love him as much as Shakespeare) and was excited to see the show since The Learned Ladies is a Moliere show I've not gotten to see before. A couple of my Drama Club kids were psyched because they took my Drama class last fall and had loved reading The Miser. There were several new members of Drama Club going with us, which always excites me since it means new experiences. (My older kids are old pros at the theatre outings. They border on jaded sometimes!)
In all, about 20 of us descended on the college last night. Within minutes of the lights going out and the show starting, though, I have to admit I was a little nervous. The show went for a highly stylized reproduction of the traditional 17th Century French style in costumes, makeup, and even movement. I wasn't sure how my kids, especially my newer kids, would respond to what can seem very artificial and lacking in sincerity. As the first act progressed, though, I began to relax as I heard the kids around me laughing ... and laughing in all the right places! At intermission, their excitement was palpable. One senior girl came up to me and said that this was "almost as good as Shakespeare." A sophomore girl told me she couldn't wait to get online and post a status on Facebook about how "epic" the show was. A junior boy declared the as being the ultimate "nerd show" and meant it lovingly. I honestly could not have been prouder of my kids. They were so well-behaved, so responsive, and so appreciative. It was lovely to pop on Facebook and see all the statuses imploring people to go see the show. After the show, the cast had a brief question and answer session, and a couple of my kids commented and participated in a really positive, intelligent way. (I will say, though, they were probably more excited when I raised my hand to ask a question -- asking the cast which character they thought was Moliere's "surrogate". I heard one student whisper that my question would be "epic." I guess that's their new word . . . "epic.")
A colleague of mine once told me that an unofficial part of our job is to be role models to our students of how their lives COULD be -- that they could escape their backgrounds that are sometimes filled with poverty and limited access to culture, that they could live lives of intellect and creativity. It's a mission I have held close to my heart ever since that conversation, which is why I strive to get my Drama Club kids into theatres so that they experience Shakespeare, Moliere, Miller, and more and get the opportunity to glimpse new ideas and ways of life. The fact that roughly 20 students walked out of that theatre last night with a newfound love of Moliere warms my heart in ways I can't possibly even express. As I look ahead to a year where the local college seasons include Euripedes, Chekhov, Hellman, Shepard, Ionesco, and more, I can't wait to take more kids and show them the wide world of theatre that lies out there for them.