Attending a comedy event last week, something struck me about what makes a successful act. Each performer needs to deliver a version of his or her personal truth. This is as true for a painter as it is a stand-up comic, as it is a singer.
The evening in question was hosted by an old friend I’d not seen for some time. He was a lecturer on the Performing Arts degree course at the university where I studied. One of the great strengths of that establishment was the amount of crossover between different disciplines. Therefore, as a ‘straight’ music student, I was able to immerse myself in collaboration with dancers and actors, as well as musicians from other backgrounds.
We chatted about how many former students from the university are still active in their chosen creative field. What all seem to agree is that we were given an environment in which we could explore, make mistakes and learn to ‘have a go’. In so doing, we learnt to put our whole selves into whatever challenges were thrown our way.
Which brings me back to my starting point this week. In order to fully immerse yourself in a creative task, you need to be sincere in your commitment to it. And the only way for that to succeed is by finding your own truth within the art you are conveying.
Even – or especially – actors need to heed this advice. Clearly, their craft entails adopting personae that are, in once sense, ‘fake’. However, for a part to be believable to an audience, it must also be believed by its performer. So, the actor will find their own truth within a role and convey that via the character.
But what relevance does this have to creative work with children? Actually, a great deal. If a child performs – say – a sequence of dance moves that have been given him or her by their teacher, they will, most likely, simply recreate the physical motion. Whereas, should they be invited to think of their own moves, they will instantly be engaged on a deeper level.
Now, they have ownership of their craft. The movements will reflect their feelings and beliefs in relation to the subject. And, of course, this will stem from what is true for them. Which is why, once set a task to create something on a particular theme, most pupils will find it hard to contain themselves. Ideas are not a scarcity for children – and the most valuable of all are their own.
Sharing Our Truths
By delving into their own truths, children are engaged on an emotional, psychological and physical level, all at once. We all have a physical response to our ideas and feelings. Sadly, much of the time, these impulses have nowhere to go. Through physical creative work, however, we can all – children and adults alike – give shape to our own individual truths.
Not only that but we can then see, hear or feel the truths of those around us. These can then be assessed and appreciated. We can discuss the relative merits of each and perhaps incorporate them into our own thinking. And isn’t that much healthier than typing our respective viewpoints furiously into social media?!