I have been working at the Citizens Theatre this week on Easter Academy, where I have been leading a group of 8-10 year olds to create a play in a week based on the theme of Ancient Greece. The theme was picked to tie in with the production of This Restless House (a contemporary adaptation of The Oresteia) which is opening next week on the main stage.
Citizens Theatre Easter Academy 2016, Age 8-10s. Photo by Jen Clokey.
Following on the theme of a modern take on an ancient story, the 8-10s have come up with a modern take on the story of the Greek god Hephaestus. The message of their play is that everyone has different strengths and that we should follow our own path and our own dreams, not feel we ought to be the same as everyone else. Ultimately, the young cast encourage their audience to be themselves.
Today we had the 10-12 year old group in to watch a rehearsal and as we debriefed the experience with our wee group of 8-10s something wonderful happened. One of the children told us:
You know in Inside Out there’s the memories and then there’s core memories? Well, I think I just made a core memory.
On some level, I have always known that the performance work I do creates lifelong memories for the participants of the project. And they are words that the teachers were often uttering during the recent production of Divided City with St Paul’s and Heriot Primaries – “This is an experience you will remember for the rest of your lives.” But today as my little cast member expressed her experience so eloquently I remembered afresh how important the work we do in learning is.
The Emotions looking out from Headquarters at the Islands of Personality Image Source
The analogy that this girl brought points to the Disney Pixar film Inside Out. In particular, she referenced the way memories are portrayed in the film. What struck me as I pondered what she had said is the function of core memories which, in the film, create “Personality Islands“. Effectively, core memories are ones that shape the person into who they are.
Often in community arts practice we find ourselves trying to prove how the work we are doing is having an impact. As practitioners we know the truth of this. We know that participants will grow in confidence, they will learn how to express themselves, they will develop their social skills… we know the positive effect of participation. But it is rare to have a young person able to express the impact that taking part has had for them and it is an incredible reminder to me of the importance of this kind of work.
I might be feeling ridiculously tired, and I might be looking forward to putting my feet up once the show is over, but it is 100% worth it when I remember that my 12 little theatre makers have been changed by their experience this week. An experience that for them will be remembered for many years to come.