Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Making the Emotional Argument

"When faced with potential cuts [in arts programs], the response is often rational: Quoting studies and statistics, for example. But this recent post by Steven Tennen on the ARTSblog made me think that there’s a better approach. Maybe a connection on an emotional level would have more impact." --- from What do you remember?, a post at the Theaterfolk Weblog.

After I read the Theaterfolk post, I read the one by Steven on the ARTSblog, too. And I agree: we need to make the emotional argument.  So here are a few of my memories, cued by my editor's questions in preparation for our Twitter Chat last week:

  • Cheryl: Ideas about theatre and improv are very important to OPERATION YES. What's your theatrical background? Favorite production you participated in?

Sara: I discovered drama much later than the sixth-graders do in OPERATION YES---I was already in high school. Some of my favorite roles were:

Alice in You Can't Take It With You---as one of the few "normal" characters in the play, it was challenging to hold my own against the wild antics of the other actors. And I kissed a boy on stage.

Rosalind in a scene with Orlando from As You Like It. We took that to state drama competition, and I believe it was the first time high schoolers had taken Shakespeare to a state-level competition in Tennessee. What I remember most was the sheer delight of saying Shakespeare's witty and intricate words---and the fact that I had to learn to do a cartwheel to enter the scene.   (And now I have a necklace with words "Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?" I wore it to the National Book Festival.) More in my post here.

Queen Elizabeth I: One of my favorite moments was being in a reader's theater production about the queens of England. I got to give a knock-em dead speech by the Queen to her troops, and as I said in my earlier post about it, "Every time I delivered it, I found my heart exploding."

  • Cheryl: Did you have a teacher who changed your life as Ms. Loupe did?

Sara: My mother was a first grade teacher and she taught me to read, so that was life-changing!

Also, my high school drama teacher, Ms. Linda Lyle. She let me try anything---Shakespeare, a one-woman Emily Dickinson show, portraying Queen Elizabeth, directing other students, stage managing...

I remember her taking me for a private session with a professional actor at a stage company in Knoxville, too. The actor's name was Lucien Douglas, and yes, it was as amazing as it sounds. I could hardly breathe.

Also, I remember very distinctly that in her "space"--she didn't tape it like Ms. Loupe in OPERATION YES does, but she definitely owned her space---everyone in the school was welcome and no one was allowed to be cliquish or put in a certain box like jock or nerd. We were ALL theater people.

    Theater taught me to take risks, and that creating trust among members of a group is at least as much fun and hard work as creating the play itself. But most importantly for me as a writer, theater taught me to reach for a deep, emotional connection with other people---and that words, even when delivered by a lone character on a bare stage, can change the world. 

    Don't our kids today also deserve to have a deep connection to the arts and to each other? 

    • For one last memory, that of my introduction to improvisation, I'm directing you to this post at the Operation Yes site:  They Called Me Pricklebutt 


    1. Love those photos.

      I was a good student, but I learned most of what's stayed with me in high school from drama club, chorus, and the many, many books I borrowed from the school library. I also got to participate in an arts program for rural kids where they bussed us to do workshops (improv was one!) and see performances, experiences that changed my whole outlook on what might be possible for me in my life. I missed whole days of school for that, which I'm not sure they'd do anymore. Such a shame if they don't.

    2. This is awesome!!! Thanks for the mention.

      Craig Mason,

    3. Love this. Know what I primarily learned from drama (and my love of it began in high school,too)? Self-confidence!


    4. LOVE the photos, Miss Heart-Exploding-Open.
      I have known for aWHILE that if I had found a home doing theater in high school instead of just flailing around, I would've been so so so much happier and more productive. The stage -- like the page -- is a place to try out "being", an emotional arguement that I'd be happy to rationalize!



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