An Open Letter to the Children’s Festival

Last week our class went to a performance of “Mess” at the Children’s Festival and the PUSH Festival.  You can read about the play here.  The Children’s Festival donated tickets to our class, which enabled us to have an excellent day of the arts for the price of a couple of bus tickets.

Here is our letter thanking the Children’s Festival for having a relationship with us and donating tickets to our class community. Our process for these letters is to record a class discussion about the experience.  After that, Jody types out the conversation we had and puts some of the ideas together into a letter. Then we review it as a class and make changes if needed. We were fortunate to have our school nurse, Cindy, come with us and participate in the discussion afterwards.  She will be coming to have a longer conversation about body image with us in the next couple of weeks.

 

January 23, 2017

Dear Children’s Festival and PUSH Festival:

We are writing this letter to thank you for the opportunity to come to “Mess” last week. We are so honoured to have a relationship with your festivals and we appreciate the support of your organizations and your donors that allowed us to receive donated tickets to attend.  Not only that, but we wanted to write and say that we feel it is important to talk about issues and that the theater is an amazing way to approach both the humour and challenges of life.  We have learned so much over the years from attending Children’s Festival presentations and it has helped us see the performing arts in new ways.

Students say:

“This gave us the opportunity to learn about a different topic. A lot of us didn’t really know about mental illness and eating disorders and now we can become more aware of our surroundings and the people around us because you never really know what someone is going through.”

“I really liked how they brought up the topic because mental illness and medical conditions are really hard for some people and eating disorders are too. I liked how they were able to bring up the topic and be serious about it but present it in a way where kids can relate. I appreciated when they went through the thoughts about having an eating disorder because it’s a big problem and may affect how you think. I didn’t know much about it before”

A large part of our discussion centred around the way that the play represented a challenging topic in a way that balanced humour and the seriousness of the topic:

I liked how it was play of them acting of them acting. They were telling a story to an audience and in the play they were actors acting about her memory.  I thought that made it less serious and sad because you knew from the start that she would recover and it wasn’t what she was thinking at the time, and they could put in some serious bits.  It left room for a lot more humour than if she had the anorexia in the play.”

“I liked how it wasn’t all seriousness, like a lot of the time it was but also humour and I liked how it was a mix of that. The humour was appropriate to the theme so helped with the challenging parts, not just adding in jokes to keep it from becoming extremely serious. It was a really nice balance. I also really liked how they explained how she was feeling mentally and not only explaining the physical world but what was happening emotionally and in her head.”

There was a lot of discussion as well about appreciation for the set and the props, and how they engaged the students’ imagination and thinking:

“I liked how you made the stage setting and props in a way that we had to imagine it happening – you didn’t have all the stuff and we had to think about it”

“I liked how the only prop on the stage was used extremely well, it seemed like it was where her anorexia would take her and they also used it as her home – that was really powerful. It took her away from everything”

“Everything had a meaning. It wasn’t just for decoration. The umbrella and the medals were the things she was really proud of and they were always above her. It was powerful imagery”

The students also had a lot to say about the importance of speaking up and asking for help, and about the stigma that can surround mental illness and eating disorders:

“People don’t talk about it because they don’t want other people to know or they’re ashamed or they think no one else will understand. If you don’t talk to people about how you feel, it might get built up in your head. If you don’t understand something, talking about it can really help.  It can help you stop or slow down. I feel like secrecy and shame work together because when they have a secret they have the shame and it can get worse and worse.”

“If you don’t tell anyone about it, it can get worse and you could die. It doesn’t help to keep a secret, it helps to tell one person and they can help. When you keep something like this a secret not only do you not get the emotional support that you need but doctors are hard to help you with your situation.  Specialists can help people if they have knowledge.”

Thank you for bringing challenging and important programming to our city, and for ensuring that students have the opportunity to experience the performing arts as a community where we can learn together and grow and share understandings. We are grateful for the donation of the tickets to our school so that we could attend a performance that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

We would appreciate you sharing our feedback with the cast and writers of “Mess” and wanted to express our gratitude for the opportunity.

Sincerely,

Division 16, Dickens Elementary

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