by Richard Ross
More relative than this—the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
How do you find the words to address power? To entice a student to feel empowered with not only their words, but their experience.
Juvie Talk is not created as a finished, completed play rather, it is offered to you and your students to use as an organic element of curriculum. Select the stories, the length, the sites, age, gender, ethnicity—tailor it to your audience. It is as simple as selecting the stories to your shopping cart and checking out. And it's free.
Your students are the conduits of the lives on these pages. The site is structured to allow you and your class to select relevant stories; those that might resonate and offer a window into their own worlds. These narratives described on the site should be an opening rather than a limit. The goal might be to incorporate the experiences of the actors. Like a recipe, these words should be a guide. The difficulty is choosing a beginning and termination.
Juvie Talk can be used as a curricular device perhaps part of a human rights chapter that relates directly to the age of your students. It can be performed in a classroom or auditorium. A closet might be emptied and used as a cell or an isolation room. Students might be asked to remove their shoes when they speak to feel the lack of power that is engendered in these spaces. Students can be asked to wear a grey or light blue or stripped sweatshirt (no hoodie please) or simple colorless tee shirt. The requirements are as simple as one or two people standing in a classroom together, sequentially, any manner of order.
There needn’t be any specific staging equipment, but a pair of clip on work lights with reflector can be obtained from Home Depot or Wal-Mart for about $6.50....MIGHT be interesting.
You can do this on your own or enlist the aide of a theater group in the school or community. The play can last as long as the attention span of the audience. It can be constructed for any and all lengths. The words, and the language are yours to manipulate, to use.
It is important to have local signposts with a performance. Consider having the play also offer access to contacts of local agencies for abuse, homelessness, difficulties with language, immigration status, law enforcement, counseling. Make sure they are a practical part of the information if the door is open and a students’ wants to find help without stigma. There is a commonality to the factors that create defeat in our students, as well as resources that assist in success.
Perhaps with the vehicle of this play, these young minds will reach into their own experiences and rather than repeating the words they read, will find the voice they own. The plays the thing.