The story continues. (see part I)
In lane three, life – and, therefore, education – is about well-balanced nutrition. The focus of the adults is input, not output.
Celebrating this kind of growth reminds me of spring 2009.
Ambleside School of Fredericksburg, a school with a tiny enrollment of about 100, was well acclaimed for quality productions of mature plays. It was an honor to have a teaching and leadership role here during this season.
The reputation for excellent plays was profound because of the school’s small size – and the town’s small size; it was even more profound because of the casting criteria used by the amateur play production team (high school teachers, including myself, and volunteers).
Instead of looking at the list of characters in the play, side by side with the list of strengths each student could bring to the stage (and every student participated – not just the talented ones who tried out and made the cut), the production team looked at the characters – and at what acting abilities each character would require of the young actors and actresses – and we assigned roles based on the students’ weaknesses, not their strengths.
The purpose of the play was growth for the students, not another opportunity to get applause for an area of already proven success.
Spring 2009 produced the play, A Man For All Seasons. Ian had the demanding lead role; he was assigned to play Sir Thomas More. A glancing look may notice Ian’s Mensa IQ and think his ability to memorize the almost 1,000 lines was the reason for this casting selection.
But that quick glance would ignore the very real fact that Ian was legally blind.
He could read – and he read voraciously – but only when he held texts directly in front of his face. He could walk around the school grounds without assistance; living for 15 years with his sight impairments, he had learned to independently maneuver in the patterns of light and darkness, and to recognize other indications of place and direction.
But Ian’s interactions with people had no eye contact and only very immature facial expressions – not great selection criteria for acting in the lead role of a high school play – a role that needed to portray great angst, great victory in the arena of integrity, and great sorrow when saying good bye to his own daughter…at the time his integrity would cost him his very life.
Ian used very limited facial expressions, I thought, because his eyes did not see detailed facial expressions in others. His eyes made out the shape of their face, but his eyes did not see their eyes clearly – or any other feature of their face that made conversations more intimate.
Feelings are shown on our faces; it is impossible to be a good actor without an ability to express real feelings.
But Ian needed to know about expressing the real feelings of real life; growth of this kind could add intimacy to every relationship in his life. So as amateur producers, we met his need.
We divided the high school students into groups of two, one of which wore a blind fold. The sighted partner would be shown a word – the name of an emotion to express with their face only. The blind-folded partner would use their hands to read the emotion on their friend’s face.
Discussions were fervent – about the difference in the placement of our eyebrows when we feel anger as opposed to excitement. We talked about how far our jaws drop in amazement, and how that is different from jaw dropping disappointment. We discovered that eyes crying in joy are usually open – gazing at the beautiful source of the joy, very different from eyes crying in sorrow that are usually closed tightly – hiding from the trauma perhaps.
Ian discovered a whole new way of relating.
When I reached out to Ian, now seven years later – to validate this story, he added to my assumption that his weak eyesight was not the only reason for his relating with little emotion. He explained, “…my having to be trained into displays of emotion was more a byproduct of some thought that I picked up along the way of emotion being a liability, versus not being able to see how someone emoted.”
His memory of this lesson, “…the pushing to show emotion, whatever the vehicle, did work, and I’m glad of it.”
Three weekend performances offered Hill Country audiences an opportunity to take a trip back in time. The horror of history was well-portrayed, as well as the heroism of bold integrity.
And when Sir Thomas More had to say good-bye to his beloved daughter before his own beheading, his emotion – and vivid facial expressions portraying those emotions – brought the audience both to its feet, and to tears, all three times.
Education in lane three; give them what they need. Provide beautiful nutrition; abundant, beautiful fruit is part of the original design.
Love is a process of meeting needs. That’s what we’ve learned from our friends at TrueFace.
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