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Photo-Essay with Towards Youth's Andrew Kushnir

Jan 11, 2019

Dr. Kathleen Gallagher and I have known each other for 10 years now – we met around my play The Middle Place touring to TDSB high schools. In 2014, she asked me to become an ‘embedded artist’ in her international research project studying a kind of 'radical hope' being practiced by young people in these times. And starting in 2016, she took me to her five sites - drama classrooms in Lucknow, Coventry, Tainan, Athens and Toronto. Our adventures and encounters are the stuff of Towards Youth.” – Andrew Kushnir
We asked documentary theatre-maker, Andrew Kushnir (Project: Humanity) to share some of his favourite snaps from these travels with Kathleen.
Kathleen is widely respected as one of the top Drama and Education researchers in the world -- she has made a close study of over 50 drama classrooms in the last 23 years. She’s pictured here, along with our young collaborators in Tainan, in one of the city’s famous night markets. We’re about to be introduced to stinky tofu.”
Here: Manolis (pseudonym) is giving us his most dramatic death scene. He and his peers take part in a drama club at their middle school in the suburbs of Athens. His is the generation that has grown up in times of severe austerity, and in recent years, the times of a humanitarian refugee crisis.”
The girls of Prerna greeting their teacher (and school founder) Dr. Urvashi Sahni. As we were told a “universe of care” is one in which young people feel that they can demand care when they need it. The students and teachers of Prerna had me rethinking the world we live in, in big ways.”
And this very special school in Lucknow, India uses drama in every subject. Every subject! These girls (who are lower class and caste in their context) engage in a Critical Feminist Pedagogy as a path to self-empowerment and to be equipped to shape their lives and communities.”
The young people in Coventry shared an original show called “The Museum of Living Stories” in the wake of the Brexit result in England. They are the Canley Youth Theatre, a program created by the renowned Belgrade Theatre, pioneers in the Theatre-in-Education movement. One can hardly describe how healing their storytelling was during a period of tremendous social upheaval.”
Our international collaborator Dr. Rachel King had MA students do a Theatre-in-Education performance at a Coventry elementary school. The rough magic of Chinese shadow puppetry was truly astounding. Kathleen and I looked at each other at the end and we were both in tears…totally undone by this thing.”
Tainan is considered the historic city in Taiwan – and under the incredible leadership of Dr. Wan-Jung Wang, its young people are trying to reconcile deeply-felt traditions with modernity/globalization. These remarkable young people are writing plays about family, money, queerness, activism and self-actualization in the most impressive ways.”
On our first day in Athens, we experienced young people taking to the street to lead a moment of solidarity with refugees in the region. They had just finished performing scripts authored by refugee youth – the upshot of drama programming being offered in the refugee camps. Our Towards Youth show image is a snapshot from this incredible moment of youth activism.”