Imagine a lot of you are part of the over 12-million folks who have been given the Pep Talk from our new endearing voice on what the world should be. That's right. Kid President. An eight-year-old endearing kid is telling it like it is.
It's powerful stuff. I find myself watching it again, and again. And again. He asks us not to be boring. He asks us to create something to make the world awesome. He asks us to give the world a reason to dance.
Enter a new stage play from the genius mind of playwright Judith Thompson who has inspired a one of kind experience for both her performers and audiences alike. Reviews have been stellar. A hit at Fringe Toronto last summer, RARE is enjoying near to sold out audiences in its current run at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto and has been extended several times. Now on stage until this Saturday March 9.
The play opens with a dance, and they had me at the first step. Add in a stunning track from the film Mission and nine masked actors and I think this is going to be interesting. But wait. The performers all have Down syndrome. And it is their stories and words that are being shared.
The beauty of this story is that it doesn't matter what they have. Their movement, the conviction of their words, the honesty of their voices. Most importantly, they were and clearly are storytellers. Through and through and through.
As Thompson has stated,
It's a brilliant piece of theatre in which artists with Down syndrome reveal their true selves underneath the mask of Down syndrome in all their beauty, their rage, their poetry, their bodies, and their politics.
This was no "I am going tell you like it is" performer to audience dialogue filled piece. No, even though the work was presentational (the actors were speaking to the audience), there was always a two way magic happening. There was a conversation happening. A human exchange. I felt it. Everyone in that theatre did as well.
Of note, there were several times when the actors removed and replaced their masks. One could feel the courage they were sharing. One wonders how easy it would be for someone with Down syndrome to except fate and the often misunderstanding of what their life is and how they live it. Not these brilliant human beings and artists. No. They were baring it all. One by one they all revealed what they feel. What they believe. What makes them laugh. What makes them cry. And one could see the genuine desire to communicate with the audience. They were sharing their life and who they were. There was no "telling" whatsoever.
But perhaps some of the most powerful moments were when a performer seemed like they may have stumbled on a word, perhaps missed a blocking movement, or simply may have lost focus for but a moment (all of which happened rarely), it was indeed a fellow actor who always seemed to be there. A simple touch on their back, or grasp of their hand. They were not alone. They were together. They were sharing as a group and not in this only as an individual. They had each others back. No matter what. Oh, what our planet would be like if we all were more like this. Goosebumps even thinking about it.
At the end of the day, this play seemed to be about a lot of things, but the one that stood out for me was the line, "I want to be out there with you" as said by one of the performers. That feeling that we are all in this together. That the performers wanted to be seen as no different then all of us. That they and everyone who has Down syndrome lead productive and fulfilled lives. Just like most of those in the audiences.
Or maybe not. Um, why do I say that?
Well, they, these performers, are actually the "people in the arena." That famous Theodore Roosevelt quote "Man in the Arena" rings oh so true here. They are digging deep and acting brave. They are risking at all costs. They are in it. They are doing it. They are removing their masks for us to see.
Harsh, but how many of the people in the audience can say the same thing? How many are taking off their masks? How many of them are taking the Kid President's challenge and are giving the world a reason to dance?
This is not about "they can do it, so why can't you?". The fact is that "they" in this case are in fact part of "you." Part of us. We are all citizens of the world. No matter what skin colour. No matter what physical or mental ailment or difference. We are all human beings.
So what can you do? Like now?
Go see the show if you can get tickets. But regardless, take the lead of these brilliant brave humans who are just like all of us and do something awesome. Out of the norm. Out of your comfort zone. Put yourself on the line. And no matter what, from this day forward, believe and communicate that "they" are indeed part of "us" and respect that eight-year-olds may be smarter than all of us.