Last year, I led a masterclass at Acting Manitou in Chance Operation using tenants affiliated with the work of John Cage, the i-Ching, and the Dadaists. In class, we gathered ingredients including pieces of text, areas on stage, gestures, and more. After that, we assigned a number to each one of those ingredients, and rolled dice to choose the ingredients until we created a piece of theatre. It was a risk but I soon found out how willing and excited the campers were to tackle art-making around randomness and the breaking down of form. They are, after-all, living in a time where the multiplicity of identity and storytelling, and the fractured way we take in information through our digital spaces is quite familiar.
The campers in that class accessed something that peaked my interest in college and that I have been applying to my experimental theatre-making ever since. I knew that we had fun creating performances by “chance” and I did underscore my excitement around the breaking down of form and linear structures to create performance for the campers I was teaching. Apparently, my insistence on not needing a text with an Aristotelian structure stuck when I learned from one of my colleagues that his students during the school year refuted his lesson writing “well-made” plays. They issued my name, telling him that Dara would disagree and cited the playful lessons of the Dadaists. I was amazed that they held onto this lesson at camp and applied that new idea months later at school. Artists and revolutionaries in the making.
Creating art with young people is rewarding, challenging, and vital. Through art we are teaching our children valuable lessons in problem-solving, leadership, critical analysis, and how to trust their impulses. We create spaces where questioning is encouraged and necessary. We slowly build free-thinkers, individuals who can lead communities, who can question authority, and rebuild at-risk structures. At camp, we imbue our kids with a sense of agency, we support them, we create space for risk-taking, and encourage them to fight through challenges. Ultimately, they succeed because they value themselves as a necessary part of a larger community. It will be exciting to see the lessons they learn this summer, and how they apply those takeaways in the days, months, years to come.