Friday, January 29, 2010

Show #5 "Speech and Debate" at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Can a show be both painful and uplifting all at the same time? The two adjectives seem, at first, to be opposites. But, as most of us know, opposite concepts are at work simultaneously in life all the time.

Take, for instance, the latest offering by the Seattle Repertory Theatre, "Speech & Debate." This is a compelling and humorous story of 3 courageous students who dare to form a speech and debate team at their high school, in spite of social pressures to do just about anything else.

Now, think back to your high school days. If any of you are thinking, "Ah....those were the happiest days of my life," then stop reading this NOW! I obviously come from a different home planet than you.

But, for the rest of humanity, try hard to conjure up those painful memories you have worked so hard to forget. You know, the ones of uneasy adolescence when "fitting in" and "being cool" were all that mattered. The days when revealing who you truly were, warts and all, was the worst nightmare of your waking life....

Remember the geeks who embarrassed themselves (and their friends) by participating in such uncool activities as drama club, chess club and Speech and Debate team? Perhaps YOU were one of those geeks?

Yep, I was one of them, too. Well, not literally, because my high school didn't actually have a chess club or a speech and debate team. But, we had our geeks, and I was probably classified as one of them.

Thus explains the pain I felt as I watched 3 amazing actors at the Rep recreate feelings (if not the actual circumstances) so many of us non-conformists felt as vulnerable, self-conscious teens.

For 95 glorious and excruciating minutes, I was transported (emotionally) back to the 1970's. LORD, help me!

But I also witnessed one of the more uplifting and celebratory theatrical productions this season. I know the theme of "courageously be who you are" and "follow your dreams, no matter what others think" is a well-used idea in literature. Idealistic, yes. Realistic, well....not always.

Our teachers and life coaches may be cheering us on with this message, but our peers are not. Most folks are more invested in seeing us "fit in" and "get with the program" than anything else.

Am I guilty of this? I work in the public schools, and teach special education students. Am I doing what I can to encourage their uniqueness and celebrate their wonderful personhood? I hope so.

My students don't fit into the norm. They will never be homecoming queen or class president. But, they are (unabashedly) who they are. I like that. I need to learn from that.

You know what is truly "cool"? Being who you REALLY are...and being unashamed.

Let's see anyone try to debate that.

Graphics courtesy of the Seattle Repertory Theatre

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