Nilaja Sun visit – Yann Burrett
There are too few people who are lucky enough to be doing something they absolutely love as a living. Nilaja Sun seems to be one of the lucky few, as my classmates and I were fortunate enough to discover when she came to talk to us about her piece “No Child...”
Nilaja began her talk in character, slipping immediately into the character of the Custodian and delivering the opening monolog from the play. This is because “I think everyone here has probably had a long day, so I wanted to give you a moment to find your heart space, to stop having to live in your head for a moment and just be in your heart.”
To me at least, the evening focused on the ideas of joy, of “heart”, of emotional expression and of honesty. Nilaja is a wonderfully engaging speaker, and as we looked at the world through her lens we discovered a place where it the power of enabling people to understand and express themselves is paramount. Through this talk, teenagers were not troubled youth or delinquents, but human beings struggling to find their place in a wider world. “I just want them to have a chance to express their goodness”, she explained.
Not just adolescents – teachers were explained too. A lot of emphasis was placed on recognizing the work teachers do and on how much energy it takes to lead a classroom of thirty students all day. Even teachers were encouraged to examine this aspect of themselves. Nilaja explained that she wanted to give teachers permission to breathe and laugh at themselves and their classrooms.
The evening was a wonderful mix of entertainment and advocacy. It was one where we were encouraged to see theatre as an inherent human activity, as an important factor in development and as more than just something to offer if there's a surplus in the school budget.