In our current world the idea of being a good person is a rare ambition to find, we are all seemingly seeking fame, money and power or at least that’s the impression you get from the various daily media offerings.
If you are young it’s often the case that cynicism, derision and apathy are the trademark measurements of just how cool or good you are. To be good in our age is often seen to be naive, embarrassing or just not the done thing while being somewhat obtuse, rude or cruel seems to have adopted a certain glamour.
This is where a good dose of youth theatre wisdom might help. In a good youth theatre we are encouraged to care, to actually give a shit, to actively think, do and participate. Here we start by caring about ourselves, how we speak, how we move, how we interact, yes we do this in the name of theatre but really these are the skills of life. This is about us having time to figure out who and why we are. Our focus then spills out onto the rest of the world, our immediate peers in the session, why do they talk the way they do?, why do they move in specific ways?, our parents, teachers, families, politicians and the famous all benefit from our ability to consider how we have become who we are. All of this learning, this interest and curiosity teaches us to care. It’s self awareness that leads to empathy and understanding.
Just like a good church, a youth theatre session gives us precious time to believe in something bigger than ourselves albeit without needing to embrace the dogma and doctrine that religion offers. Here we believe in the importance of the exercise, the audience, the play and the human condition.
This belief and commitment to something bigger than ourselves has long been an attribution of personal happiness.
Of course there is also belief in the show.
When in a collaborative performance every one of us knows that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Here we acknowledge the brilliance of being part of one organism, one entity made up of individuals all striving to achieve something good. We can then take that into the wider world and even if we don’t at least we have actively embraced the idea for a short time each week.
Now of course all this isn’t achieved with a simplistic vision of what goodness is. It’s not always done with lilting, soft, gentle words of encouragement but sometimes with intense provocation, piss taking and in depth questioning, trial and error. This kind of intense treatment might feel too painful if it wasn’t for the understanding that the intention in the room is good, we are all there to help one another improve, not just in theatre making but in living.
Becoming a good person doesn’t just happen by accident, we all need inspiration, provocation and intervention to help us get there and also to remind us on a regular basis that we are always pliable, we can all change, improve and achieve.
Perhaps because many youth theatres exist on the fringes of other organisations where the rules, regulations, and targets demanded of institutions such as schools, colleges and universities don’t quite apply, youth theatre finds itself uniquely positioned to provide what is genuinely useful rather than what is deemed educational, professional or correct.
The intention of every good youth theatre should be to improve the lives of the people who attend. Other institutions could learn from this; schools, theatres, our places of work, should all have the underlying or better yet explicit aim of making us all better people.
Ideas to live by