Friday, February 3, 2017

On Bullying

"The Jabberwocky" Company
You know where I stand politically. You are aware of my thoughts, my feelings. I write about them in this blog. I am outspoken on social media, and on the street. Like the vast majority of Americans, I am not happy with the direction our nation has taken.

But I am also a father, and I have a responsibility not to project disappointment or despair onto my children. They are not unaware. They were active during the campaign, and they were as shocked as we by the result. I never lied to them. I never promised them she would win. But like most of us, I never truly imagined that he could.

I mean, he didn't. And yet, he is the President. But that's another story.

The night of the election the only thing keeping me from falling apart was my daughter, who was very upset and could not sleep. I projected stoicism for her. This was not the end, but merely another setback in the slow but inexorable march towards progress. She finally did sleep, between us, like she did when she was a child. I did not sleep.

We keep an eye on the children. Because I believe the children are ... well, they are the future, right? And children will listen, and so on. My generation began their childhood during an era of great cynicism and uncertainty, which left us guarded and jaded, as were our parents. I would prefer my children to be as optimistic and confident as their immediate elders. I can't change the world, but I can shape the way they receive it.

Prior to the election, I had ideas for Red Onion, White Garlic. Talespinner Children's Theatre announced the production in October, but there was no script yet, just ideas, a list of things I would like to see or to have happen, and that's important, too, but you can do that and never accomplish the actual writing. November 8 broke that open for me, and ideas that had previously seemed novel took on actual significance.

Opening doors.
For example, every character in the play is female. That is not to say there are no men in it, although that is entirely true. But I did not omit male characters, the play is not defined by what it does not have. It is about these characters, and you may notice they are all women. I am aware that, in the past, I have written some weak female characters. Here, I took the opportunity to create women who are strong and foolish, wary and conflicted, scheming and malicious, generous and odd. It is all about them, and their story is delightful.

Like the man said, what stories will you choose to tell? Rehearsals for that production begin in two weeks.

At the same time, we have started an exciting new program at Great Lakes Theater. I have blogged for years about the outreach tour, about productions like The Secret Adversary and Double Heart. These were created with teen and adult audiences in mind. The new Classics on Tour program, which will visit twenty-one public sites in northeast Ohio and dozens of area schools, is our first production geared specifically for an elementary school-aged audience.

Rehearsals for The Jabberwocky began this week. This script was originally created by and produced for the Idaho Theatre for Youth, this is its second production. Inspired by Lewis Carroll's poem, here three kids use the power of imagination to not only escape the real world bullying they find in a local library, but also learn how best to deal with their tormentors.

It's an anti-bullying play, which are very popular these days. There are countless professional companies who have at least one in their educational outreach repertoire. And schools respond, they want programming with strong messages about conflict resolution and successful interpersonal communication.

It is disheartening when we live in an era when the most powerful man in the country (elected by millions, if far less than the majority of voters) sets an example of dominance and intimidation, mocking those with physical disabilities, degrading women, and dehumanizing refugees and immigrants. That is the way our children now understand you become President of the United States.

Lisa is directing this one, and we have put together an amazing ensemble of young performers for what promises to be a physically adventurous work. We have always had a short rehearsal period for these one-hour performances, but for this expanded performance schedule we have also contracted them for day long rehearsals. In just the first few days we have facilitated workshops in commedia, combat choreography, and puppetry.

Great Lakes Theater presents The Jabberwocky, tour begins February 21, 2017.

There will be puppets.