Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Residency with Oak Park River Forest High School

I have the privilege of working with many groups of people as the Executive Artistic Director of ETD. I cherish each of these interactions, of course. However, I have to say, I am often most blown away by my time with young people. Their honesty, courage, and willingness to offer each support just inspires me so much. It happened with the Al Raby High School students this spring and it is occurring once again this summer as I spend July with students at Oak Park River Forest High School doing a more focused residency program. 

What is a residency program all about, you might be asking? Well, it can mean a lot of different things depending on the group of students with whom I’m working! This particular group came together after I visited their summer school class and did a presentation on Erasing the Distance and how we shed light on mental illness through theatre.

During the presentation, we engaged in a discussion about different kinds of mental health issues that teens face, like depression, self-injury, OCD, and substance use and a handful of the students shared on a really deep level.  The teacher and I knew there was the opportunity to do more and to support the students. So we arranged that I would come back to work with a self-selected group of students for the rest of summer school.

Last Tuesday, 6 students showed up. By Thursday, two more had joined the group, with the encouragement of one their peers who said, “It’s a place where you can get things off your chest.”

What do we do together? Well, like with any residency we do at ETD, the goals come from the students. Rhonda Bynum, my ETD co-artist, and I asked the students to fill in the end of this sentence, “This group would be a success if….” Here’s what they came up with…

This group would be a success if…

I got to talk about my issues and was HEARD

I expressed myself and felt free
A weight was lifted off me

I had the chance to talk and get support
I knew someone else felt my pain

I learned how to listen and accept others
I learned how to let things out less destructively
I felt intentional with my life

We use theater games, writing, group sharing, and trust work to help the students reach those goals! 

Stay tuned to the blog for more insight into our process in a future blog posting!

Thanks for reading,

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