I hit the newly-relocated Anne Frank Center during my most recent trip to New York City, where director of education Maureen McNeil was kind enough to take a break from settling in so we could talk a bit about the center’s work.
Something McNeil said that morning struck me as especially profound. She spoke of the power of the blank page, describing it as “the great equalizer.” Nazis thought they had all the power during WWII, but Anne Frank had a pen.
Frank was powerful too, as are young people today who wield the pen to explore and express their feelings – about themselves and the world around them. I shared her observation with a 3rd grader named Sofia after we met during an Occupy Wall Street march from Zuccotti Park to Wall Street.
I try, at every opportunity, to encourage young people to write – partly because I’ve witnessed my own children wrestle with thinking their writing isn’t good enough when nothing could be farther from the truth.
After seeing “Billy Elliot The Musical” on Broadway with Lizabeth one night, we headed across the street to join folks who’d attended opening night of “The Mountaintop” – a play that imagines events of the last night of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life.
There we met a mother and son, and got to chatting about the show. I asked the boy, just 12 years old, whether he enjoyed writing – and got a mixed reply. I meet a lot of children that age who love creative writing but find their passion for the pen dampened by the rigors of academic writing.
I invited him to write a review of “The Mountaintop” for our readers, and hope he’ll decide to follow up with me before too long. Children and teens so often see things we adults overlook – so I’m eager to know what he thought, and felt, about the work by playwright Katori Hall.
Theater students at Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix are actually learning to write reviews of theater productions, something too few theater students ever have the opportunity to explore. Still, I don’t expect perfect theater criticism from the youth. Sometimes their raw reflections are every bit as insightful.
Resources for young writers in Arizona include the Young Writers Program at the Virgina G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University in Tempe. A national organization called the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, where a young actor named Nick Cartell known to Valley theater buffs now works, also offers plenty of writing opportunities for youth.
Watch for a future post detailing more of the Anne Frank Center’s work, which blends writing, theater, visual art and more with themes of social justice inspired by the life of a little girl whose diary has become a gateway to hope and healing.
Note: Click here to view about an online video clip of Anne Frank. Click here for details on the newly-extended deadline for Arizona Theatre Company’s 2012 Arizona Playwriting Award. Click here for information about an open call for submissions to the “Scholastic Art & Writing Awards” competition for 7th-12th grade students.
Coming up: A visit to the New York Public Library
Photo from www.heatheronhertravels.com