We interrupt our gentle exploration of drama class pedagogy for something completely different.
Perhaps you saw this today?
It’s Saturday Night Live’s sketch entitled “High School Theatre Show” . Knowing what I do, friends were joyously sharing it on my Facebook wall. They expected me to be amused. Sorry, but I’m not. And I’m not sorry.
It’s a sketch that satirizes high school students doing an experimental theatre collage regarding social issues. It involves moving black boxes around. Too much. That’s the joke. The other jokes are about how the “parents hate to think the kids think they’re teaching them”, and how the kids are unprofessional, and have seven intermissions, and think it’s powerful to walk around in character during them, and how doing expressionistic theatre about social issues is pathetically laughable.
And it’s lame. It’s lamer than any high school play I’ve ever seen, or any high school theatre festival offering I’ve ever seen, because of this reason. It’s lame because it’s mean spirited, and aggressively, well, a tool of the oppressor. It’s lame because it sends the message that theatre at its most accessible, youth theatre, has nothing to teach us.
It involves parents depicted as well-heeled adults, who don’t remember what it’s like to be kids, looking back awkwardly at students’ attempts to be creative, to engage with the world, to say something. It involves an audience of such adults, who are too jaded to care if their kids are trying to say something. And it mocks the roots of where most of these adults actually come from. We’re supposed to watch it, and laugh at these other adults, playing teenagers trying to say something, and having that rejected by the people who are supposed to love and support them.
And that, well, that’s a problem. You want an authentic experience, full of struggle and dedication and the desperate attempt at connection to a higher plane of human communion? Go see a high school play. The experience is vastly, tediously underrated by entertainment, by academia, and by society at large. It’s where it all begins, and attention should be paid.
Elliot Eisner said that the arts symbolize to kids what adults think are important. And when we gleefully, (yeah, I went there) and at a high level, mock the arts and their place in education from our snarky, high finance chairs, we aren’t using our powers for good. And in an increasing culture of the corporatization of, well, everything, public education included, and a general climate of complete misinformation when it comes to the value of the arts, I find this particular offering from SNL unnecessary.
You probably think I’m taking myself too seriously as a teacher, or overvaluing what my kids can do, that I’m blinded by love. Maybe. But it’s this love that gets kids through high school, that gives them a chance at determining their own paths, that allows them to find their unique potential in the world. This love opens doors. This love changes lives. This love, and the love of the arts that it fosters and engenders, puts more and more self-aware, creative, alive people into our society.
So point your snark elsewhere, Saturday Night Live. At the world’s real hypocrites. Not those who will eventually shape its creative destiny.
The kids are alright. Leave them alone. And clap once in awhile.