Group of Dartmouth performers teaching school kids about personal choices
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It’s hard to believe anyone could make the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child entertaining, but a Dartmouth-based youth theatre group has done it.
The cast members of project ARC (Action, Choice, Responsibility) have visited 13 local schools since 2012, couching an important social justice lesson in dance, song and comedy.
“There are a lot of people that need to hear this message, dance and music and acting is a good way to get it through,” said performer Rilla Barrett, 12.
The piece is an initiative of the Meaningful, Intelligent Theatrical Entertainment group, written by director Janice Cruddas with a focus chosen by the nine cast members.
“A lot of the time there's a disconnect between the rights and responsibility,” said Jaquelle Crowe, 16, before a recent performance at Bell Park Elementary.
The nine cast members say they want to educate and empower kids by helping them understand the impacts of poor personal choices – not by lecturing about Stuff Kids Shouldn’t Do.
“I think we're often told what we can and can't do, but we're not told what the reasons are,” said Emma Cruddas, 17.
The performance, a playful series of sketches and songs, opens with an introduction to personal rights and responsibilities.
“We talk about crossing the street, you have the right to do that, but you have the responsibility to look both ways before you do,” explained cast member Ailin Chant.
The performers also explore ways that insecurity can erode personal choice, demonstrating how hidden personal problems can lead to negative behaviours – such as bullying.
“Insecurity…can make us hurt other people, even though we don't actually want to,” said Lilith Richter-Stephenson, 14, who portrays a girl with dyslexia.
The Bell Park audience was captivated, laughing out loud at the comedy and listening intently to the more serious moments.
Vice-president Mamoona Brace said the approach to fairly weighty material was age- appropriate and struck a chord with everyone.
“They enjoyed the dance, and seeing the kids doing the performances themselves,” said Brace a week later. “The teachers enjoyed the human rights aspect and the effort that went into it…it was well done.”
project ARC has been so well received, the group is planning to hold auditions and launch a second cast in hopes of reaching a wider audience.
“We're just coming as kids to relate to kids,” said Jaquelle. “We're just sharing our hearts with them.”