Monday, November 20, 2017

Conferences always seem to come right when I need them. Right when I’m stressed, tired, and ready to just win the lottery and retire young already. As a high school teacher, I don’t get the chance to unwind with or vent to coworkers—my coworkers are my students! Lately, I’ve been leaving my theatre after a twelve-hour workday thinking, “Please, can I just—for a day, an hour, or a minute—can I just get away from students so that I can refuel?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my students, I do.

Then I’ll get to the conference, and it’s a whole bunch of adults! We meet, we greet, we wine, we dine, we dialogue, we debate, we commiserate. At the end of it all, I am happy, but exhausted and ready to get home to my students.
Don’t get me wrong. I love adults, too. I do!

My point is this: One Theatre World was the best adult/young person blend of any conference I have attending yet, and it filled my heart up in the best possible way. Yes, I got to see friends old and new, dialogue with peers that were over the age of 18, and talk about “grown up things.” I never signed a pass, took attendance, or counted down from ten to one. It was everything I had expected and hoped for.

But the young people—the young people made this conference! Some of them were planted: the readers for The Bully Plays, the cast of the musical in a day performance of Annie, and I’m pretty sure Roxanne Schroeder-Arce’s daughter was hired to dance adorably throughout the entire closing night party.

But the youth that weren’t planted, they were the best. The hundreds of students playing in the lawn outside of the theatre, reminding me that green grass and a sunny day are things to be treasured. The young people marveling at the Monorail, reminding me that curiosity is one’s best form of personal entertainment. A girl, nonverbal and severely autistic, delighting in every nuance of the Guangdong puppetry performance, reminding me that every single person needs and deserves art.
I leave Seattle filled with warm memories of both adults and youth. Monday will come, and at some point I will again be stressed, tired, and scratching off a lottery ticket, fingers crossed. But recalling these joyful moments from the conference will encourage me to keep going, as I know the next joyful moment in our field is never far off.

And Ernie—if you did plant all of those hundreds of kids, you are quite the cruise director, my friend!

Elizabeth Brendel Horn
High school educator and director
Managing editor of AATE’s Incite/Insight magazine
Graduate of UCF’s Theatre for Young Audiences MFA program

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