Last month, I visited a theater class. “Today, we’re going to talk about choices,” said Anna, a Workshop teaching artist. Sitting on a lunch table bench in a cafeteria full of 3rd and 4th graders, I watched on as Anna coached her students to think deeper about their improvisation. When a child mimed “finding a lost sock,” Anna asked the other students, “Did you believe her? Why was that a strong choice?”
Anna called to her students: “Commit!” I watched as they struggled to think about their choice of character, or their character’s movement. I watched them revisit that choice, describe their motivation, and try again with full commitment to that choice.
At Performing Arts Workshop in 2012, we had some choices of own to make: to continue to provide high-quality arts education at a large number of sites, but with varying levels of depth; or to focus on some partners that understand the power of art to make real change. To continue to hire our artists on an hourly, inconsistent basis, as work becomes available; or to commit to those teaching artists for a full year – at the same site, with the same students.
I have been inspired recently by the idea of “creating dangerously,” a phrase made famous by Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. She described this practice of creating, “as though each piece of art were a stand-in for life, a soul, a future.” That phrase reminds me of Performing Arts Workshop Founder Gloria Unti’s first class at the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center. She and her students created dangerously in theater and dance. The choices they made galvanized their community, and gave them power.
The creative process within Performing Arts Workshop is much like that of our classrooms – reflective, dynamic, subject to critique. So, too, are our choices as an organization. In 2013, we have some big decisions to make. Two years later, we will turn 50. I hope that we’ll look back on 2012 as the time when we created dangerously to envision the next evolution of this bold organization.
To creating dangerously!