Sometimes people inspire others. There are times when a person will inspire you once in a very specific way. Other times, there are people who continuously inspire you throughout your life, just by living theirs.
I have a friend that I met when I was in high school. Her name is Brigitte. She is one of those remarkable people I know who is inspiring, not just once, but throughout the years since I’ve met her.
By my senior year of high school, I had been writing poems for several years, but had never done anything with them except sharing a small number of them with a very small number of very select individuals. Brigitte was one of those individuals.
However, in my senior year I did things a little differently. I read a few of my poems in a talent show. (It was a church talent show, so people were almost obligated to say they liked it, but still. Reading personal poetic creations in front of over hundred people is a little nerve-wracking no matter who they are.) I also submitted both poems and drawings to the high school creative writing magazine, “Muses”.
(I still have that copy of that “Muses”. I was flipping through it just now and realized the poems that I had submitted I had not kept a copy of and completely forgot about. And now I have them back. Well, I always had them, but now I know about them. Again.)
The talent show and “Muses” were really the first time I ever shared any of my creative creations with the public. It was in large part due to Brigitte’s friendship and encouragement that I broke out of my shell (at least a little).
Years after high school, I found out that Brigitte was working for The Young Playwrights’ Theater, or YPT. What is YPT? It is a non-profit theater in the Washington D.C. area. What’s so special about working for a non-profit theater? This particular theater teaches kids how to write plays, and even produces some of them.
This past September, I found out she is now the Executive Director of YPT. How cool is that? And very recently, YPT and a new book they are putting out (Write to Dream) were highlighted on the news.
YPT’s book is not only full of plays, but they also included curriculum to help teachers teach the art of playwriting on their own. The thing of it is, YPT’s goal isn’t really to teach kids how to write plays, but to teach kids how to think.
How does writing plays teach people how to think?
Now I’m going out on a limb here (and I want to make it clear that the following thoughts are mine and mine alone) but writing plays doesn’t just teach people how to think, but how to feel, empathize, and express themselves.
How do I know this? I’ve mentioned before that I don’t write plays, or screenplays or scripts of any kind. What do I know about what writing plays teaches people?
Nothing. I don’t know a damn thing. I’m just guessing here, but at least I’m being honest and upfront about not having any real or verified idea what I’m talking about. Here are a few of my unverified ideas about what one might learn from writing plays.
– Writing plays does help develop critical thinking, organizing your thoughts and ideas, and sharing your vision with others. This can be used anywhere, at any time, in business (any business), in your social life and with family.
– Learning how to write anything, including plays, can help people express themselves, their emotions and their thoughts and their opinions of society in a healthy way. And with plays, there are many more ways to express one’s self other than writing. If you like fashion, you can work with costumes. If you prefer painting, or construction, or interior design, you can work with the sets and backdrops.
– Writing plays can help develop empathy. For the most part, plays depend on characters interacting. Dialogue. Conversation. You have to realize what the different characters are feeling, thinking, what they would do and say in different situations with other characters. This can help you realize that other people (real people, not just the characters in your head) have feelings and thoughts all their own, and often interact with people in unexpected ways for reasons all their own.
– Writing plays can show people the consequences of their actions. As you write a play with characters interacting, the plot will probably include the consequences of the characters actions. A lot of stories are driven by the characters actions and the consequences of them. The more you think about the consequences your characters are creating, the more you might realize that your actions have consequences. And that the actions of those around you have consequences that can affect yourself and others. Realizing your actions have consequences and connecting the two often leads to that seemingly rare trait called responsibility. It can also lead to thinking about the consequences of your actions before you act.
– Depending on how far you go into the production of a play, you can learn leadership skills, negotiating skills, team work. It’s about dedication, practice, and patience. It’s about courage, marketing, and problem solving (often problem solving under pressure). Whether you are directing, acting, working set design, or in lighting and sound, or anywhere else, it doesn’t matter. You can learn all these things, in addition to the specific skill sets needed for those specific areas.
And those are just a few things that one non-theater person came up with. There are probably a million other positive effects of learning how to write a play, writing a play, and then seeing it come alive on stage in front of hundreds of people. Like self-confidence, to name one more.
Now, I don’t talk with Brigitte very often, or even regularly. I very much doubt she knows how remarkable I think she is. She certainly doesn’t know I’m writing this blog post. But every once in a while I get some news about what she’s doing with her life, and just about every time I do I am impressed and inspired. She doesn’t just have a job, she is helping the rising generation learn and experience things you can’t get from text books or lectures.
Is that inspiring or what? Makes me want to do something meaningful with what I do. Not sure what yet, but something.
Here now for some links: