By Charlotte Exton
There are many different lessons and strategies that I’ve learned during my two years in the Educational Theatre Program at City College. How to keep students engaged…how to integrate academics and theatre organically…I must advocate for myself…for students…for the arts. However, after thinking about it for some time, I’ve finally discovered one of the most important things that I’ve learned: when making a suggestion, vocalizing an idea, or giving out constructive criticism, the most valuable words to use are “I Wonder…”
I get it. You’re probably saying, “Really, Charlotte? That’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?” and to that I say, “Yes…and!”
When offering the words “I wonder” to a conversation, there is no solid answer or even a right one – it creates a dialogue between you and the other person or people. It even suggests that your idea may not be the best one, and instead it fosters thoughts, creativity, and solidarity. When I first learned about this technique, I was in my first semester of graduate school in Sobha Kavanakudiyil’s Drama in Education class. A light bulb in my brain turned on. I thought “what a great way to get children to think creatively”. But I thought I would only use that word in a school setting and nothing more. Instead, without even thinking about it, I started using this technique in my everyday life. I use it in both my professional and personal lives. When using the words, “I think it should be this way,” or “But I want this to happen,” you tell the other person that their idea may not matter, when in fact, it absolutely does!
“I wonder” is a tool to bring people together – to collaborate! And that is exactly what the Educational Theatre program is all about. We work together, we celebrate together, we grieve together, because that’s what theatre is all about – feeling the emotions and coming together to process those emotions.
Now, the world has changed. We are no longer experiencing art in the same room, our theatres look different, our classrooms look different. How will this change theatre in the future? Will we become even more isolated? Will we forget the importance of theatre in our schools? Or will the opposite happen? Will we begin to value the arts more than ever before? Will live theatre finally become more accessible to constantly ignored communities? More affordable? The opportunities are endless!
It’s hard to stay optimistic in times of deep uncertainty and fear. But because of my colleagues, my cohort, and my peers I feel a kind of hope that I’ve never felt before. Creativity and imagination are flowing out of us and it’s a matter of time before we start to create change. The tunnel we’re in is dark and we may be tempted to turn back, but there is a bright light at the end. Some may see it now, some may not until later, but it exists. What’s at the end?