By Taylor Greenthal
Member, Berkeley Rep Teen Council
During my entire time at the Theatre Communications Group conference, my mind was exhausted from the endless analyzing and synthesizing of facts, opinions, and hypotheses that were constantly circulating around me. Through the incredible whirlwind that was the conference, I needed to find a focus, a path to help me navigate through all the discussions and really become engrossed in one major issue that mattered most to me. Of course, after my experiences with arts education at TCG last year and the newly formed Arts Advocacy Committee with Teen Council this year, I tried to seek out the discussions and people trying to make a difference in that area of the field. I was pleasantly surprised with this year’s theme of the conference, the hopeful, progressive mindset of “What if…?”. With this future-based theme, so many more plenary sessions, breakout discussions, and casual conversation revolved around us: the young people, Generation Y, “Digital Natives,” etc. I like to think that the teen voice at the conference last year reminded enough people that theatre isn’t just for the older generations, and that in fact, the theatre industry needs to learn more about and include younger generations in order to keep the industry relevent and popular. I hope that as a result of our presence last year, teens helped shift the conversation from the problems of today to the possibility of the future.
While the progress from last year to this year was evident, there is still so much growth that needs to take place. The first breakout session I attended was “What if…There Were No Theatre Arts Education in Schools?,” a topic near and dear to me. At the beginning, I was hopeful as mostly everyone was saying statements that I agree with: “education reform is a priority,” and “it’s a tragedy these programs are being cut,” and “these programs are vital in saving our future…” During this breakout session, we began to talk about what voices should be presented to the politicians who make policy and what resonates with the representatives who have the power to make decisions that will make real change. I spoke up and said, “The student’s voices.” My comment was never referred to or really responded to for the entire session; I received a response of sweet smiles and nods. I shared with the group what our Teen Council has been doing to advocate for the arts and arts education -- visiting our local representatives and sharing stories about why the arts are so important to us -- with little acknowledgment from the adults in the room. I realized that it is so easy to complain about an issue and get people to sympathize with you, but it is not always easy to inspire people to do their part in making things better. It made me proud that with the small group of teens in the Arts Advocacy Committee, we’ve already taken action and started to make a difference.
There were so many wonderful moments and discussions throughout the conference that both inspired and challenged me. Attending the TCG conference for the past two years has been such a gift. I have become so excited about the potential I have in the field and the great ability I have to make a difference. I have so many career and interest paths to choose from, and I am so ready to explore them further.
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