I am the proud dad of two delightful, curious and wiggly boys ages 8 and 11. One of my favorite memories- and I don’t think I am alone- was reading them a story at bedtime. They would laugh and point at the pictures as I tried to entertain them with my funny voices. I would emphasize exciting moments with a tickle and shake their little tummies. They often ended up climbing all over my lap-and each other-to get the best view of the book. Or, as brothers do, they just wanted to keep the other from seeing the pictures.
As I write, I am sad to admit that time has already passed. Now they read themselves to sleep. Gone are the nights when they would beg and plead for me to read them one more story.
But I don’t want my story time to end.
I have just completed 20 years of working in the Educational Theatre department. That’s a lot of stories told- and I think we are only getting better. This year we have pushed ourselves to find that balance between education and theatre. We are moving from our comfort zone into more “upstream” and social/emotional work- that place where you replace concrete messages with thoughts and questions. It is also the place where we don’t tell stories, we share them. Our new production, “People Like Vince” by Chris Gatchalian, is a great example.
“People Like Vince” is the story of a young lady, Myrtle, and her Uncle Vince. They go fishing together, they tour art galleries, they discover new foods and play whack-a-mole. They try to understand what true friendship means. Oh, and we learn that Uncle Vince struggles with mental health issues.
This play was originally commissioned by Green Thumb Theatre in Vancouver, British Columbia. Their mission statement is, “Green Thumb Theatre creates and produces plays that explore social issues relevant to the lives of children, youth and young adults. We provide theatre that celebrates the language and stories of today’s generation and culture to stimulate empathy, debate and critical thinking.” Basically, they share good stories.
To put it another way, Eric Booth from Lincoln Center Education believes that our mission as teaching artists is to create and inspire life long yearners. I believe we can do this with good story telling. Good stories don’t always have the easy ending. They often leave us with more questions than answers. They leave us yearning for more.
So, what is the story that makes you who you are? What is that important message you feel erupting from your spirit? Have you shared it with the world? Why not?
I have decided that I want to spend my life sharing stories that cover health from top to bottom, from physical to mental. I want young people to yearn for the health of their mind, body and spirit.
And yes, I am going to go back to reading with my boys. I am going to wiggle my way in between them and read. And explore. And question. And love every single minute of it.
– Brian Harper, AIR Project Manager