I have already stated on multiple occasions that I am a musicals fan, preferably Broadway but I’m also passionate about college theater, middle and high school theater, not-for-profit theater, and off-Broadway theater. Hopefully I have covered all the applicable venues. But for me theater has always been more than just entertainment. Studying theater, working on a theater production, and watching/listening to theater all serve to enhance learning and accomplish this in a very dynamic way. Yesterday provided me with another excellent example of learning while watching and listening. I took my younger daughter plus a friend of hers as well as a daughter of a friend to Newsies. Since this production was announced, I have been looking forward to seeing it. For me it was much more than just an opportunity to take the younger generation to a show. Everything about the show worked well, the cast, the score, the story, and the music all combined to tell an important story. And different from many of the Disney musicals (which I typically enjoy), this was a true story and an important story.
Newsies is the story of the newsboys’ strike of 1899. This was a successful strike that forced Joseph Pulitzer to change how newsboys (newsies) were treated as they sold newspapers. Often homeless children, the newsies worked long hours for miniscule pay and even had to pay for papers they were unable to sell. The importance of organizing to stand up for what was right and the importance of unions in the history of our country all came across loud and clear. The kids loved Newsies and they learned from it.
One day before the 2008 Presidential debate on the Hofstra campus (and once again one day prior to the upcoming 2012 Presidential Debate), we had (and will again have) a day of “Democracy in Performance.” Three outstanding faculty members organized (and are again organizing) a day where historical figures roam the campus and vignettes on key issues and key moments are performed. These vignettes, performed as historical re-enactments (in costume), come alive thanks to the “living history performers” as well as our talented student performers. It is a moment to learn and to reflect and we share the moment, not only with our own community, but also with the local schools in the area. A great time is had by all and the learning is continuous.
In this time of constrained budgets, when many schools are looking at arts budgets as potential areas to cut first, careful attention should be paid to consider all the benefits of the arts. We all have to live with these financial constraints but living with the arts needs to be considered a priority with wide ranging learning benefits. My headline is very clear: Support the Arts.