• Rani O'Brien

Young Storytellers and Actors


I remember being a kid in theatre and wanting the lead role. But it wasn't because I wanted the lime light... at least I paled on that front in comparison to some of my friends ;). The reason I always wanted the lead is because those were the roles that allowed you to play out the nuances of life: happiness, trauma, hatred, anger. That's the fun of acting! And of creating any sort of art as a kid: it allows you to escape life, at the same time that you play it out. But, like most kids my age, I found it difficult to find opportunities to fully immerse myself due to lack of resources. I was lucky in that I found several theatre programs for kids in my area which were free or affordable in which some amazing mentors showed me the way and gave me a chance. But opportunities as a whole were minuscule... partially because of under funding and an over saturation of people like me. Also because at the time plays weren't available that explored what it's like to be human. I mean sure there was Anne Frank, but only one kid could play Anne. It wasn't until I found The Second City that I realized that we truly could make our own opportunities by writing how we deal with our lives into scenes or plays, and it really wasn't all that secret or exclusive of an art form. Hell... I was writing sketches when I was 12 (my first one was a spoof on The Spice Girls, thank you very much), I just didn't know. Kids these days are much more apt to create sketches and play out ideas because of accessibility to cameras. But do they have guidance on how to access life? Do they have mentors who will help them craft the stories of their lives? Or even on how to craft a good silly sketch? I think so often mentors and teacher steer away from creative writing and script writing because it can seem murky to teach. It takes time. And some kids have short attention spans. And listen, there are great programs for young writers out there, like Young Storytellers, and comedy theatre that have youth classes, and writing institutions... but are they as pervasive as the theatre classes in which the same tiring scripts and musicals are remade again and again with only one lead, one chosen child to fulfill their dream of living out life? Now that I live in New York and am very close to many new scripts and writers constantly working, I can't help but see the field is infiltrated with great new work. I want these new works to be seen by kids, civic, regional theatre throughout the country. I want drama teachers to read these scripts. There are so many other reasons for this too! For one, the scripts that are done and redone in drama programs often uphold gender stereotypes and center white voices. How can we get more teachers to teach their students to "write their way out?" How can drama teachers nation wide come in contact with these beautiful new works? How can we provide access on a national scale to change the field, thereby changing lives?


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director of new work, comedy & subversive stories