Friday, November 30, 2007

No. 8 best play of all time: No. 1 experience

I'm a huge believer in supporting the efforts of young people in the arts. Those of you who follow what I do (i.e. my mom) know that I'm very passionate about this issue, and I think that passion stems from a few factors:

  • I often think about the important role that working in the arts -- acting, music, film, theater craft, writing -- as a kid had on my own life; not just in terms of being activities I enjoyed and benefited from, but also in terms of helping to shape my values and personality on whole.
  • On that same note, I still feel very grateful towards the adults who worked with and mentored me when I was a kid (heck... I'm still working with some of them and treasure those friendships).
  • I think the values that working on creative projects offer to young people are tremendous, both directly and indirectly. Of course if you're planning on pursuing a career in the arts, the direct benefits are obvious. But even if you're not, I think that the skills and values you can learn from working together with a group of people on a creative project -- teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, self-motivation, treating others with kindness and respect -- are some of the most important in life. In my own life, no single experience better prepared me for managing large, diverse groups of people in my professional life than leading a group of my peers in producing a show or film when I was a teenager.
For the past few weeks, I've been helping out the students and faculty at Old Bridge High School with technical stuff on their fall comedy, The Curious Savage. I had the opportunity to do the same thing last year when they did High School Musical (which is really less of a musical and more of an unstoppable cultural phenomenon), and, once again, I find that I'm learning at least as much from the experience as the kids are.

I don't know who decided that enthusiasm is a dirty word, but I find it disheartening that so many adults seem to be pathologically afraid of showing it. Apparently, everyone decided that if you want to be taken seriously, you have to act as if nothing affects you and that anyone who shows excitement is silly and immature.

In addition to being hardworking and dedicated, every single one of these students is intensely enthusiastic about being a part of the show. It's interesting how if you just give yourself permission to be enthusiastic about an experience, that experience instantly becomes a richer and more meaningful one. Somehow it just doesn't occur to most kids to be any other way. It's sad that as adults we have to work to achieve that, but it's nice to reminded of how important it is to do it from time to time.

So , to the cast and crew: I hope you are enthusiastically proud of your hard work and the wonderful job you did on opening night. I hope you're excited about being on the front page of the local paper. And I hope you continue to bring that enthusiasm to everything you do: it's what makes life worth living.

As an aside: according to the paper, the show was "voted the No. 8 best play of all time." I wonder who voted on that. I certainly didn't. I mean, let's be realistic here: there are some pretty damn good plays out there. I mean, speaking purely of the quality of the writing, I can think of at least 8 better plays written in Classical Greek. I could certainly name 8 better plays written by Shakespeare, and I'm reasonably certain I could name 8 better plays by Neil Simon.