At school, we wrote.
Among my friends and in my social media feed:
Offers to help one another. Care and concern for the most at risk among us. Resources for folks at home, for teachers seeking creative plans, for shows to watch and skills to learn and places to digitally visit. Gentle reminders. Humor. Concern for the people who lack resources. Suggestions for how to help if we are in a position that we can. Prayers and positivity. Encouragement to support local businesses and artists. Creative ways to connect. Gratitude for those who are called to work harder, the responders.
At the start of this school year, the Drama Club officers met to discuss whether or not we should produce this show. What seemed a timely response to what students saw happening around them, suddenly felt like too much.
You’ll hear snippets of their early conversations in the opening scene.
They decided to set perimeters: it had to be real, but not too real, and not too sad. Then they opened up all the possibilities of what it could be. They continued to set boundaries as the dry erase board collected their words and phrases. They brainstormed and shared the stories they gathered. These morphed into monologues and scenes. They monitored themselves, trusted each other, took risks, and re-evaluated. They learned how to create space for each other, how to sit in uncomfortable silence and wait for someone else’s voice to fill the quiet. They made music. Conversations sparked ideas for possible titles, and students regularly grabbed the black Sharpie to add more options to the poster board hanging in the classroom. At the end of every meeting, improvisational games got us laughing and light again before we headed home.
Words, scenes, music, games.
I’d like to say we trusted the process, but I think we all had days when we wondered how this would come together. It’s rare for students to participate in a collaborative artistic endeavor like this; it’s vastly different than memorizing and interpreting lines arranged by someone else. We typically spend our rehearsals considering character, relationships, and audience, but this project has required that performers reach inside instead. Through this process, it became clear that this show was not created for an audience or even for teens outside of this town. It was made specifically for the teenagers who live in this community, yet many elements prove timeless and ageless.
For two nights only, you are invited into their world.
I’ve caught myself considering my own high school years. I graduated thirty years ago, and yet some of those early relationships and memories feel as fresh as yesterday. How much has changed? Teens today are berated for their fragility and addiction to technology, but who in our modern society isn’t struggling with information overload, the lack of civil discourse, the increasing demands and pace of our lives? And if we are all more connected than we’ve ever been, why do so many people feel lonely?
I marvel at what happens when teenagers are provided space and handed a microphone, when they reveal and explore how complex and multidirectional life actually is. So many of these stories are not theirs, and they’ve chosen to carry them anyway. They found lightness in the heaviness without ever minimizing the weight of it all.
When I reflect on the places and people who have felt like home, it’s often bittersweet. I catch myself thinking about this as I pull out of the school parking lot, drive past the cornfields, and walk through the front door of the house that holds the people I love most.