In November, I was so happy to perform at the Annual Gala for Developing Artists—in part because I got to sing with Ana Ortiz (photo). But mostly I felt honored. Honored to help this beautiful organization. Yes, it teaches young actors. But it does more. My friend Jill DeArmon established DA after she had taught at several well-known institutions in the city, and was continually amazed at how little freedom her young students were given to create. So, as she writes on the website, "when we started DA, we promised students a place to be heard, where they could create original work and be taught how to produce it for themselves.”
I've worked many years as a professor and instructor, and I know that even much older acting students can end up in rooms where control, and the status of teachers and their techniques are valued more highly—and more comfortably—than the jagged, ingenious surprises that can spring from the heart of a young artist. I have seen institutions hassling or shutting down student-run productions to preserve their hierarchy of knowledge and order. But in a place of so much "wisdom," how may we prepare young people for the rough and tumble risk of creating professionally, and teach them that not knowing is essential to an artist every time he or she begins?
Developing Artists shows me what I wish I'd gotten more of in my early training. That my artistic raw material is my personal experience precisely because it is mine, because it is true for me and besides it's all I've got. If young artists can absorb this early on from the challenges of real expression, and can own it through practice, then techniques they master later will serve their artistry instead of becoming "credentials."
Developing Artists insists that kids stake their own artistic claim, by training them as professionals and teaching them to practice accountability to what they believe. What could be more important? Jill and Jinn S. Kim, the executive director, position themselves in support of students, and never in front of them. They're Servant Leaders, so they're a terrific resource for our CompassNeedle exploration.
As we continue to clarify our own philosophy, we’ll take a page from Developing Artists. By the way, their new home is Vineyard Theatre, and to be associated with the good folks in both of these organizations will help me serve the CompassNeedle agenda.
Check out the DA website HERE! And I hope you'll consider offering support.