It’s a post-show come-down like no other. My co-teacher Daryl Fretz and I have just wrapped the year up with our Arts Umbrella theatre class at Britannia Secondary. The epically titled “Pacific Storm” class is made up of about ten (attendance varies, it’s that kind of class, what can you do) grade eight and nine students from all over East Van. Next year, most of them will age out of the program and go to different schools.
After rehearsing all term, today Pacific Storm performed a staged version of Beowulf in the Britannia auditorium to an audience of ten teachers and AU staff. They totally blew us away. The hard work they put in memorizing lines and blocking, the level of commitment to their roles, the creativity, the openness, the teamwork: all these were icing on the cake of the whole class just simply showing up and going on stage. There’s a lot that each student takes away from the experience of creating and exploring a character and rehearsing and being heard and seen on stage. Like the student who doesn’t talk at all in class, going up there today and delightfully screeching her lines as Grendel’s Mother, filling the whole auditorium with her voice. This is seriously powerful stuff.
There’s something else seriously powerful that I’m taking away from the class this year. It’s a moment in late March when I was sharing some info with the class about Mr Burns, we read and analyzed scenes and discussed the play a bit – oh and also, some students came to see it and some actors came to visit and talk with the class afterwards! – We were looking at some photos, the ones of the cast standing around the barrel fire, and one student says, “Aw man, there’s no brown dudes!” I think my response was something like, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” And I’ll never stop wishing I had something better to say.
But I will have something better to say next time. This student, all students, deserve not only the opportunity to become whatever they dream up in class, but also to see themselves reflected in the Arts community outside of their school. Duh!
I’ve run this moment by a few people around me. The consensus is that in order to prepare myself with an adequate response for the next time, there’s one simple thing to be done: join the conversation. And when one joins a conversation, the proper thing to do is to listen.
So I will listen, and we will join the conversation, and next time I will have something better to say. And you can bet that whatever comes next for LML will reflect what we have heard in this conversation, and hopefully even respond and add to it.
Thanks for an unforgettable performance and an enlightening year, Pacific Storm.