“What I was able to witness was a room full of people that had walked in as strangers and were leaving as a community. They realized that they weren’t alone. And I think that really speaks to the power of theatre and what theatre can do.”
-Anthony Runfola, I AM THEATRE
In a world where young (and old!) people text and tweet more than talk or discuss, it’s refreshing to have a place to look someone in the eye and connect. The moment Anthony speaks of doesn’t happen every day, but it’s a large part of why I think young people need to be in our theatres and given the opportunity to respond. I always hope that by providing access to the art and a space for dialogue, the magic will happen. In my experience, if you can get people in the space, it usually will.
When I take youth to a post show discussion, I’m always surprised at the depth of understanding they have of the work, and bold honesty that inevitably erupts from their minds. If it doesn’t speak to them, they’ll tell it like they see it. They want to connect. They want to hear others’ opinions. And they want to be heard.
Lots of theatres provide opportunities for response and dialogue for both artist and audience following a performance, but not all of them successfully.
How does your theatre provide space for audiences to engage following their experience? What element really makes it work?
Have you experienced the kind of instant community that Anthony witnessed? What made that connection possible?
The skill of the facilitator can make or break a discussion. How do you train and prepare for this kind of experience?
Let us know, or better yet, don’t just tell, show.
Ben Hanna is an actor, director and artist educator who believes that arts education fuels creative thinkers, produces problem solvers and emboldens leaders. He studied theatre and youth development at the University of Minnesota and has performed and instructed at The Children’s Theatre Company, SteppingStone Theatre for Youth Development and Penumbra Theatre Company. Ben is new to the Bay Area and now works at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre as the community programs manager.