MAD kids break the stereotypes

Are you worried about the state of our youth today?

I have a cure for you. It is something that works for me every time: I attend a MAD performance at Wood Street Centre.

Music Arts Drama is an experiential program advocated for, and now run by, Mary Sloan and Jeff Nordlund. Two semesters a year, groups of students rotate through to learn some core subjects and much, much more.

They learn how to present performances from both sides of the curtain, both sides of a video camera, and the result is always affirming of just how talented and passionate these young people can be.

I attended the MAD Coffee House last month and was entertained and impressed in equal measure. These young people can sing and dance and act and play musical instruments.

Then there are those who recited short stories that used words in such a measured and precise way that made them powerful. For a sample, see The Story Corner on Pages 16 and 17 that features the sonnets of Kelly Bowers. Heidi Loos featured her, too, on Page 6.

And there was a skit that skewered the beatnik generation that was devastatingly funny. Indeed, many of them displayed a sophisticated sense of humour that spoke to a self-awareness not often attributed to teenagers.

These students are also producing films. My daughter’s was the best in my unbiased opinion, displaying a talent and world view that definitely did not come from me but, really, these are skills that are practised by each of the students.

But “skills” is not what I had in mind in the “much, much more” I referred to earlier. It is the poise and confidence these students are learning; it is the appreciation of the arts they are gaining; and the understanding that they really could earn a living from the arts.

Indeed, my daughter will be entering a film production program at university in 2009. Meh, she won’t be a writer like her Dad, but she will still be a storyteller. And what cooler way is there to earn a living?

I really have to acknowledge the Department of Education here. Yes, Mary and Jeff deserve much credit for their passion and hard work, but the territorial government made the decision to support our children in this way.

In a town that demands ice time and soccer fields as a right, there is still money flowing to the development of the arts.

What a bleak town this would be if The Guild, Nakai Theatre and Brave New Works lost this annual infusion of talent and enthusiasm from the MAD program.

Assuming Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is true, youth always get what they need. As a parent, ask yourselves: Do you want your kids to satisfy their need for self-actualization by tagging a wall or by writing and performing a skit? Do you want them to satisfy their need for love/belonging by hanging out on Main Street or by working together as a team on a play?

Every student should sign up for MAD for at least one semester.

Meanwhile, if you need to convince yourself that “the kids are all right”, if you need to see just how clear-eyed and talented they can be, you have one more chance before the next school year. Seussical shows June 5 to 8 at 8 p.m. at the Wood Street Centre.

And you can see Tara McCarthy’s story on Seussical on Page 18.

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