I was six when I did my first play. I was the narrator… in a Christmas play. I had a ton of lines and apparently I remembered every word. I don’t remember a moment of it, but I have pictures so I know it happened.
My theatrical career was cut short as my family moved 17 times by the time I was 13. Big disconnect… from community… from friends… and eventually from family.
In response I turned inward.
By the time I was 12, I was so shy my mom took me to a therapist to see what was wrong with me. (I like to call it a therapist, but it was really a psychic, my mother was quirky). My mother was told to go home and enjoy the silence: that once I started talking there would be no shutting me up!
Shortly after, we moved to Wisconsin and I discovered drama and music… at Pilgrim Park Jr. High School. Wally Tomcheck was the music and drama teacher… a flamboyant, bigger then life five-foot-eight giant! I was mesmerized… and I found my voice!
The arts saved me from a world of silence and opened my soul. I felt connected to a new and mysterious energy and I did indeed find my voice, which quite literally saved my life.
I pursued my craft by attending a prestigious acting school. I learned everything there was to know and worked with gifted and knowledgable artists.
I pursued acting for several years, eventually getting into directing, my passion growing with each experience.
At 37 my life was changed. I had my only son, and I became a mom.
As my son approached school age my attention focused on the education system. I was appalled to learn that the arts had diminished horribly in the schools, and the performing arts in particular were practically non-existent.
Naively, I set about to change things.
I took a job as a drama and music teacher in two schools: a high school and a parochial school, located side by side. It became my own personal artistic science lab.
When I began teaching (a profession I had always thought beneath my exceptional gifts) the kids could have cared less about plays or music or performing.
But I held on to the idea that if the kids were exposed to the performing arts, they would love it and eventually want it.
Eight years later I am happy to report I was right! The kids are hooked and look forward to each new experience.
I knew I was making progress when the kindergarten “actors” asked if they could take questions after their class performance “like the kids do in Mrs. Strickland’s plays”. They did.
In our fast moving high tech world they crave connection, and the arts allows them to connect…. To their own voices, to each other… to stories.
Through this I have learned some valuable lessons:
Feeding the soul is as important as feeding the body
Art feeds the soul
We are losing our next generation of artists by having the arts out of the schools
We are losing our next generation of audiences of live arts by having the performing arts out of the schools
The artists are there
The potential audience is there
The artists need to be nurtured and given a voice
I also learned some solutions:
We need to make arts as much a priority as any other form of education
Get the kids at a young age if you want to make a change
Kids literally learn what they live
Take kids to a play and they may enjoy it and may become future theatergoers.
Put kids in a play and they will love it and will become live theater patrons for life!
To relive the excitement of the live performing arts experience.
To relive the invigorating exchange of energies and share in the experience of the age old art of storytelling.
To feel the connection that live theater offers… again and again.
We humans love connection… we long for it. We thrive on it. We are a species that loves to communicate, we are storytellers!
Join me in raising your voice. Demand the arts for yourselves. And most importantly demand the arts for our next generation of artists and audiences and get them back into the schools in a strong and powerful way.
Because the excitement of a live theatrical experience is an experience we don’t want to lose!