Annie's Reflections: TYWLS at Rattlestick

 pictured here, TYWLS youth attending Draw the Circle by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen

pictured here, TYWLS youth attending Draw the Circle by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen

One of my favorite things about working at Rattlestick is having the opportunity to develop and carry out educational programs around our artistic programming. Job descriptions for Managing Director positions do not typically include educational program development, so this is one of many perks of being a part of a small but mighty team like Rattlestick. For the two seasons I’ve been working here, our team has grown partnerships with various educational entities, and we are committed to that continued growth. During a time when students all over the country are using leadership and bravery like I’ve never seen to inspire both their peers, and adults as well, to speak up, take action, and DO something, it’s an honor to share our work at Rattlestick and engage in dialogue with young people who are discovering the power of their voices. 

This past February marked our second season working with the Young Women’s Leadership Network (http://www.ywln.org/) and some of the high schools they support. The Young Women’s Leadership Schools, familiarly referred to as TYWLS, are a high-performing network of all-girls public secondary schools. This year, we hosted the 11th grade students from the Brooklyn chapter for the second time for a student matinee of Dael Orlandersmith’s Until the Flood as a field trip for their History class. Additionally, we worked with the East Harlem chapter for the first time, and we organized a matinee for the 12th grade students to see Mashuq Deen’s Draw the Circle as a field trip for their English/Theater class. Each performance was followed by conversations between the audience and Rattlestick artists and staff.

In conversations with the students following the performance, students commented on how they could explore complex issues in our culture through their own writing and artistic reflection, similar to how Orlandersmith explores race and issues around police brutality in Until the Flood.

Prior to Deen’s show, we talked with the students about super powers: how we identify our own super powers, and how we can use them in our lives to help others and ourselves. Following the performance, the students easily identified Deen’s many super powers, a major one being acceptance and love. The conversation between Deen and the audience made up of TYWLS East Harlem lasted over an hour. One student had the last word when she said to him that Draw the Circle was a play that could relate to them all. She finished with “Thank you for this – it was a life-changing experience.” We at Rattlestick felt very thankful for our young audiences at Dael and Deen’s shows, and the life-changing experiences they gave us with their unique and creative perspectives, their bravery to express reactions and ability to relate, their acceptance and love. Talk about super powers...!

 Mashuq Mushtaq Deen photographed by Russ Rowland for Draw the Circle

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen photographed by Russ Rowland for Draw the Circle

Those are some of the moments at Rattlestick that truly solidify our dedication to theater and its ability to shape minds and hearts. We can’t wait for more next season!

 

ADDITIONAL QUOTES ABOUT OUR TYWLS PARTNERSHIP

Mathias Holzman, the History teacher at TWYLS Brooklyn, said of the experience surrounding Orlandersmith’s Until the Flood: “Our students were able to experience an intimate theatrical experience with a dynamic performer who was able to bring to life a series of stories that touched them on many levels. This kind of access is rare to the average student, but Rattlestick was able to make it a reality for them.”

Al Albergaria, the English/Theater teacher at TWYLS East Harlem, shared that Deen’s Draw the Circle “spoke volumes to my students. They were moved by the compelling narrative that forced them to question the role that prejudice, sexuality, and parenting play in their own lives. I sat next to a student who wept as she saw the play. Another student proudly proclaimed that the experience of seeing Draw the Circle was better than seeing Hamilton. In short, it was a special afternoon they will never forget.”

Playwright Mashuq Deen reflected on the matinee experience with TYWLS East Harlem, as well: “We had longer, more in depth conversation with the students than we usually get to have with other audiences. I was impressed by the directness of their questions. For some students, it was clear that they were wrestling with personal experiences that were intersecting with the themes of the play. I really appreciated the longer, more in-depth conversation we had. They were a great audience.”

 Dael Orlandersmith photographed by Robert Altman for Until the Flood

Dael Orlandersmith photographed by Robert Altman for Until the Flood