Last Friday, the youth from our Community Theatre Programme set foot into the Esplanade Theatre Studio for the first time. They were checking out the venue as from 1 to 3 August 2018, they will be staging The Block Party, an original play there. Although they had performed at communal spaces in different neighbourhoods, being inside the theatre triggered feelings of anxiety and excitement within them. Despite, almost 18 months of work co-creating this production, the significance of performing at the Esplanade has just hit them.
Being involved in the programme has been significant for these youth in many ways that they would probably not recognize. For instance, we have observed them becoming a lot more aware and reflective of their neighbourhood and living conditions. During a session where they discussed how they could transpose the stories they had gathered into theatre, one of them wondered aloud why is it that the block where he lives is always litter-strewed while those across the street are spotlessly clean. He had noticed that it was not because there were less cleaners at his block but because people living there littered openly. He then asked himself if his neighbours would continue to litter if they were living across the street.
His questions cannot be answered without some research, but his questions were not motivated by an academic endeavour. They were driven by a sense of belonging and a nagging feeling that something was not too right with the place he called home and the people he called friends. It appears that as our youth interviewed their neighbours for potential storylines, they were also making friends and developing neighbourhood pride. On another occasion, another youth was dismayed that “old people ‘jumping’ was common enough.” Suicides bothered him and he felt that he needed to do something about it, beginning at home.
The Block Party is part of the M1 Peer Pleasure Youth Theatre Festival which aims to showcase original works by young people so that their unique perspectives on social issues can enrich our understanding of the world we live in. This opportunity for our youth to develop their interest in theatre as well as their social consciousness has been made possible by a collaboration with ArtsWok Collaborative, an arts-based community development organization.
When the festival is over, we will be supporting our youth who have expressed a desire to champion a cause within their neighbourhood. Whether it is a litter-free void deck or the well-being of older persons, we are proud and heartened that they believe in the significance of staging social change. Meanwhile, to encourage their creative effort, to acknowledge their lived experiences and their ambition for social good, please come to The Block Party.
Enjoy your weekend.
I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance. – Pablo Casals