When Gina told me she was too “bad” to be released from the shelter for at-risk girls where she lives, I had to ask: “Are you bad, or do you do bad things?”
She slammed her thin frame into the video bowling game before her. “Both.” Gutter ball.
This was our first day together in a theatre workshop, and I didn’t know her well. Was she one of the young mothers here, or one of the teens for whom the shelter was purgatory—a last stop before jail?
Over the next three days, Gina threw herself into the acting exercises, the heated discussions of current events, and the times we mixed the two. On our last day together, our class joined the other art groups for an informal closing celebration. My girls fought their nerves and showed highlights from our time together, anything from a mime of brushing their teeth to creating a symbolic sculpture of bodies ravaged by racist words. After the celebration concluded, I walked over to Gina.
“You’re not a bad person,” I told her. “You’re not.”
“I know that now,” she said. Strike, all pins down.
This is what theatre can do.
I'll be teaching theatre again at BuildaBridge Insitutite this June in Philadelphia, and you should go. Scenes such as the above are a privilege to participate in, and an inspiration for continuing the good work back in your own community. Other arts are represented, as well; check out their helpful online flyer here.
- CREATIVE ART STUDENTS WHO WANT TO DEVELOP A SKILL BASE FOR DOING COMMUNITY SERVICE
- STUDENTS AND PROFESSIONALS CONSIDERING A CAREER IN ARTS-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
- MATURE PROFESSIONALS WHO HAVE ENTERED OR ARE CONSIDERING A SECOND CAREER OF SERVICE
- UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS SEEKING ENHANCED TRAINING FOR THEIR STUDENTS NOT NECESSARILY OFFERED IN THEIR PROGRAM OF STUDY
- CREATIVE PEOPLE LOOKING TO WORK ABROAD
BuildaBridge was founded with a mission to engage the power of art-making for bringing hope and healing to the most vulnerable in the toughest places of the world. Stemming from a trip in 1997 where a group of Eastern University creative artists engaged children who had survived an earthquake in Costa Rica, the BuildaBridge Institute was created to prepare artists for dealing with trauma and effectively teaching cross-culturally. Fifteen years later, BuildaBridge continues to research, apply the principles we have learned in Philadelphia's homeless shelter system and around the world, and train hundreds to improve their service to children, youth and adults in very difficult circumstances of poverty and catastrophe. BuildaBridge Institute is partnered with Eastern University to offer an Arts in Transformation concentration in the M.A. in Urban Studies program.