You know, that moment when it feels like a light switches on? When you have an idea that can help you do something special. Something new.
The origins of CARE Actor:
A story from our CEO, Pooja Chawla
While working with a Conflict Resolution Theater (CRT) team – AmeriCorps’ City Year in Philadelphia program – I saw first-hand the transformative power of theater. One day, my team and I were extremely late heading up North on the SEPTA bus. We were supposed to perform our improv show for an assembly hall of over 200 kids. Our frantic director and all those kids were waiting. No one was sure what to do.
Without time to think, our director did what improv actors are known for: she winged it. Instead of waiting for, she invited the sixth grade students up to the stage and taught them the scenes on the spot. These students performed our show for their peers. When my team arrived we apologized profusely, but we also noticed that something magical had occurred. It was unexpected, yet so worthwhile.
These students had blossomed into actors.
Video by Madhavi Reddi for CARE Actor
CRT is an interactive theater production that involves role playing and audience participation. My team of six Corps Members and our director spent an entire month training, learning how to create scenes in the moment, how to follow our instincts, listen to one another, and incorporate audience feedback into the scenes. These sixth graders figured it out in a matter of seconds.
Afterwards, these budding young actors were asked to journal about their experiences. Brimming with newfound confidence, they said things like, “I didn’t think I could do this, but I did!” And to this day, I will never forget a young girl who wrote, "I never knew how funny I am."
This moment changed the trajectory of my life. Before this, I’d planned to find a “real job.” But now, for the first time, I understood that theater and acting could make children come alive. Of course – deep inside, I already knew this, because theater had done the exact same thing for me. As a painfully shy child, I learned how to express myself through theater. As an adult, I could help other children do the same. My personal mission became helping kids like myself gain self-confidence, in a theater setting.
I’m not sure exactly how it works. Perhaps it's because acting allows us to explore aspects of ourselves that we otherwise wouldn't. Perhaps it’s because when you perform there is a witness to your transformation. Regardless, I have come to understand that if you awaken a child’s creativity, you can help that child become his or her best self. Creativity and performance are just the tip of the iceberg, bringing them closer to their own greatness.
And that is how the idea of CARE Actor was born.
What about you? Have you noticed a relationship between creativity and character development? What about your children's experience with the arts has suprised you? Sound off in the comments below!