Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Working With Young People

I have a 26 year old mind in middle-aged body. I love working with teenagers and people in their early 20s because sometimes I don't think I'm that much older than they are.

Until my knees creak, of course.

Anyway, Brittney & I were going over the script we're using for the Youth Theatre Experience in March, and I made a pop culture reference that I didn't think was that old. Apparently it was. And then, trying to make me feel better about being reminded of my quickly passing years, Brittney said, "Do you know, I'm part of the last generation to know what life is like without everyone in the family having a computer?"

I asked her if she knew what a typewriter was. Her mother has memories of using one...

My point in bringing this up is that theatre can be an ageless cultural touchstone for every generation. We don't need to wireless gadgets to understand the magic in the 19th century gem of a play, PETER PAN. We don't have to know that pumps were the only source of running water in many houses when THE MIRACLE WORKER took place. And we already know that love is eternally painful and dangerous, for Juliettes in 16th century Verona or 21st Vancouver.

Theatre is the ultimate time machine. And yes, I can remember a time when there were party lines for the phone (this was at the cottage, deep in the hinterlands, and I believe we were the last 8 party line customers in Ontario) and telegrams were how urgent messages were sent and people dressed up to fly somewhere (when apparently airlines would prefer we all wear as little clothing as possible these days!).

So if our plays tell stories from those times - hurray, we'll all have something fun to talk about at intermission. But if our plays also talk about the feelings and ideas of those times - hurray, for we'll have something to talk about for days after the final curtain.

It's going to be interesting to see how the Youth Theatre Experience takes their own memories of early childhood and the fairy stories they all learned back then and apply those sensibilities to their production.

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