Theatre 31 has run a successful pilot program of “Speak Up!” and we have seen its power. Students have bravely revealed their thoughts on issues that were important and sometimes very personal to them. They explored these issues in many creative ways which they hadn’t before been given the opportunity to.
The themes found within their art pieces have included the COVID-19 pandemic, violence, racism, and their own personal issues and struggles. They have expressed these themes in a wide variety of artistic mediums, and we have found in some cases that they have actually offered solutions to the problems they presented.
We have seen that when young people have the courage to share their voices, their stories, and their vision, through their art, that others also are encouraged to step out and share what is going on for them. This program has helped students break through the fear of being judged in a negative way for revealing something personal or important to them, and has given them a feeling of great pride and accomplishment in doing so.
We have seen students gain a greater connection to each other and also a greater empathy. It has been a truly magical thing to experience, especially as young people have been so profoundly affected by the mental health issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has created.