It is rare to see young people as experts creating high quality artistic experiences. That rarity makes these works unique and potentially confronting.
But why is it so rare, and what about it is so confronting?
I’m a member of the cross-age ensemble of The House That Dan Built. Our ensemble provides the opportunity for girls to refine their skills and think critically about the art they create.
We are cultural citizens. We are also young people.
These two labels are not mutually exclusive, and in fact the overlap is the catalyst for interesting, provocative work.
I am a cultural citizen right now. Youth theatre should not be training us for thought and action in the future, it should be training us for now. Part of that training should be the ability to think critically and reflectively about your own work and your place in the conversation.
The process at the House, in particular the process of creating our own work, is challenging and rewarding.
To sit in a room filled with girls, and to have each idea judged on its merits, rather than where it came from, is an unusual experience. Sitting in that room with these girls, surrounded by drive and a passion for creating, is a process that may only be achievable in youth theatre.
Every girl in that room cares about the work as much as me. The ensemble is never an after school activity, although I believe they have a valuable place in youth arts. It is a collaborative process that pushes me to think critically about my role as an artist and what I want to say. We have to articulate ideas.
Why am I saying this?
Why in this way?
This process is an empowering and challenging one, and one young people must be allowed to undertake. They must be allowed to articulate their ideas, and be pushed to think critically on the implications of those ideas. To shy away from this would be to take the purpose out of art, and totally nullify young people’s role in the public sphere.