Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why do you vote?

Post by Artistic Intern Adam Odsess-Rubin

Why do people vote?  This is the subject of investigation for a group of roughly 30 high schoolers working with The Civilians at Brooklyn High School for the Arts in the middle of an important election season.  With actress and Civilians Associate Artist Marsha Stephanie Blake and drama teacher Frank Proudfoot at the helm, this theater class has become a hotbed of theatrical creation.  Over the past few months, students have been interviewing family, friends, and community members about the upcoming election, and discovering what electoral politics mean to them.  Casting is done, the script is almost finished, and the students are ready for their spotlight.  By stepping into the shoes of others, they are not only learning about politics, but coming to better understand the community around them.

I sat down for informal interviews with some of the students last week, where we discussed voting, the project, and what their vision would be if they were President of the United States.

When asked whether high schoolers should be able to vote, the responses were surprisingly split. For the affirmative one student eloquently said, “I think we should vote. I think we should be able to vote because we’re still humans. We’re still people, we have our say. Four years from now we gonna be in college, so I want to have my say on what goes on in four years.” Other students worried that teens weren’t responsible enough. “Even in my class, teenagers are too easily manipulated. In my drama class, once one person says something, it’s like ‘you’re right, you’re right, you’re right.’ They don’t have the mindset to vote.”

Despite reservations though, many seemed to know exactly what they would do if they were elected into the oval office.  Answers ranged from banning homework to increasing funding for special education programs, but most agreed with this student, who said, “My vision is that everyone would be an equal.  There’d be no need for no lower class, and middle class and higher class.  Everyone would be treated and handled the same.” Others took the duty of presidency more lightly, with one student declaring, “I’d put my feet up on the desk haha.”

Finally, I asked them how they felt about The Civilians and Marsha Stephanie Blake coming in to help them create this production , which is set to go up December 3 and 4 in their gymnasium. One student noted, “I just got interested in politics. Like in 2008, our teacher made us be interested in it. Now I’m starting to get interested again…. I think it’s good cause we get to show how others think. People in the audience get to see how others think …They can relate.” Another spoke to an interview she conducted, saying, “I’ve learned a lot more about voting and interviewing people. I saw a lot of new views on issues I never thought about before, and something that really stuck with me is that someone I interviewed, someone random, someone in the street- they said that sometimes when we think of the President, we think that they’re superheroes, that they’re Superman, that they can do whatever they want. They’re still human, and we all make mistakes.” One student spoke to the empowerment he felt, explaining, “I’m going to be honest, at first I did not like [the project]. But after I saw different interviews, and I saw things come together, and I saw how it was going to play out, I found it really interesting. In this school, we’re used to doing Shakespeare and classical plays, we never get a chance to actually speak our voice. So I think this is very interesting, cause we got aspects of our voice and adults’ voices. …. People are more active than they were when The Civilians wasn’t here.”

So we want to know: Why do you vote? Share with us in the comments!

And here's an awesome video from our program with the Brooklyn High School of the Arts last year, for which they conducted interviews about the 1960's!

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