In an astoundingly varied fashion, young people at Anacortes High poured out their souls and shared parts of their life with the unsuspecting audience.
When our youth contributor Jade Carter approached me several weeks ago about covering an upcoming event she was part of that involved high school students telling their stories through the arts, I thought it sounded interesting. She put me in touch with one of the adult producers, Keiko McCracken. When I asked her what the inspiration for this project was, Keiko mentioned a documentary entitled “Paper Tigers” which illustrates how
Adverse experiences in our early life shape our responses, how we think and process information. Arts and music can become a pathway to know ourselves.
She went on to say that it all started with a focus group of students. It was decided that there would be no script or recital, just young people telling their stories all across the spectrum. Many of those interested felt that they were not part of the larger social group. Some of the conflicts that would be addressed included bullying, body image, gender issues, and love. Out of the initial group of 50 students, it coalesced into a core of nine. When our conversation moved on to the whole teenage experience in general, Keiko commented on why a project like this this is so important.
Young adulthood can be a turbulent time of self awareness. Sometimes people think your enthusiasm is a sign of weakness, but its really a strength.
On the night of the performance I hurried into the foyer, but had to stop and take quick glance at the amazing display of student art.
Once the lights went down, a steady drum beat called the cast onto the stage. Their voices rose up into a beautiful song. Part of the group split off, formed a semi-circle, and sang a second piece. There was little doubt that these were choir students. All I can really say is the complex, and well executed vocal harmonies were stunning. The piece was titled “You Will Be Found.” It echoed themes of togetherness, acceptance, and finding one’s way. Looking back at the experience, I can see where this was a great first step into what proved to be a night of beautiful, stirring and at times, jarring presentations.
If I attempted to go step by step through the program, it would require many pages. The evening included music, dance, poetry, song, and social commentary with combinations of all of the above included. Not only was there live performance and art, but also video content. What I am going to try and do is highlight some of the re-occuring themes, and hope for the best. These images and impression are in a roughly chronological sequence.
Alienation and Acceptance
“Silence became beautiful” “Although we may look different, we are really all the same”
“Accept me for who I am”
Delivering a Powerful Message
“Look closer!” “Love yourself for who you are….the lonely, skinny girl in the corner”
“After three years, nothing has been done about homelessness!”
Dealing with Trauma
The Joy of Creativity and Artistic Expression
“Deux Duos” Dead Man’s Lawyer
Friendship in dance “Tulikotoka Ni Mbali”
For the finale, the group reprised their opening number accompanied by dancers.
All around me during the presentation, I heard gasps, words of encouragement, and groans of sympathy from the audience. As testament to the impact, those in attendance gave the performers two standing ovations. Special thanks to all those who participated in the event, helped produce it, and local organizations How it Works and Voices of the Children who supported it. Photos courtesy of Joel Askey.
Entertainment Writer Mark Perschbacher…A man who will cross great barriers to find exceptional music, art, food, and beer. Mark is a long time Skagit County resident, contributor to, and supporter of local arts.