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TAP Throwback: On Voice, Systems, and Impact

Editor's Note: Even as we're full speed ahead with our TAP 2018-19 trainees, we're still reveling in the reflections of our 2017-18 participants. Over the next several weeks, we'll be sharing several blogs authored by our now-alums. These blogs are both delightful throwbacks, as well as hints about what might be ahead for this year's trainees!

Working at an NYC DOE school in Spring 2018 meant I had Easter weekend off, and while I loved seeing my family for the holiday, my favorite part of the break was actually the weekend after, at the April 7th TAP Professional Development: The Power of Personal Narrative and Systems of Thinking Through Theatre.

I immediately was drawn to the ethos and practice at Opening Act - using theatre and storytelling to help students craft their unique voice and perspective. Being a Teaching Artist, or any kind of educator for that matter, isn’t about giving students a voice; they already have one, a wonderful one. Our job is to help them discover and build on their personal power, using that voice.

I also greatly enjoyed the second half of the day, an exploration of the abstract idea of using theatre to think through worldly systems (ranging from scientific ones like the digestive system, to government systems, and even the school-to-prison pipeline). At first, I was concerned this wonderful idea would be too abstract for me to fully understand, let alone implement in my practice. But the visual-kinesthetic approach to demonstrating and interrogating our physical, social, and political systems proved to be incredibly illuminating (not to mention downright FUN at times). It also provided some insight and inspiration for some of my personal art and opened up a new layer of thinking I plan to use in practice with my students and my own artistic endeavors.

Continuing in that vein of duality, the Panel on Professionalism a few days later got me thinking about the difference between serving a lot of people, as many as possible, or serving a few on a deep level. Both are good and important work, but which suits me best? As an aspiring Drama Therapist, I have to say the latter. But this doesn’t mean Teaching Artist work can’t have that impact also. It’s like Patti says, it’s better to go deep than wide. Teaching Artists reach a lot of students and educators and still find ways to go deep with that impact and learning.

The results of this kind of effort were seen firsthand on stage at the CWP Benefit, with so many young people performing for, and thanking, the teachers and artists, and teaching artists, who had supported them in developing their voices.

It was especially moving to see two young ladies from my internship classroom perform their work together on stage. Though I had only been there for 8 weeks, I had the privilege of seeing many brave moments from these young women as they went deep into their own perspectives and emotions to create thoughtful and poignant work. Not without fear or vulnerability, but the confidence they had in the security of the space allowed them to push past it and share writing that demonstrated such insightful reflection and thinking. Depth over breadth. And to have not seen them for 6 weeks and then witness their incredible readings and performances on the night of the benefit was incredible. It was a testament to the true power of art in schools, and the important work of organizations like Community-Word Project and the Teaching Artists who take those messages and practices to the students.

Mikalya Morin is a playwright and TAP alum who is studying drama therapy at NYU.

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