Beware the green elixer. Those of you who’ve seen the musical “Wicked” get the reference. So do busloads of Valley students who attended a recent touring performance of “Wicked” at ASU Gammage in Tempe. If you want kids to learn important life lessons, try lecturing less and hitting the theater more.
I got to wondering, after encountering all those wide-eyed and audibly enthusiastic students at “Wicked” the other night, what’s to be learned from this tale of two witches. For starters, I suppose, I should stop calling them “witches” — because “Wicked” clearly demonstrates the dangers of name-calling.
It’s a tale of bullying gone bad, and the way things spin out of control when those who should be upstanders choose to be bystanders instead. Hating or fearing someone because of skin color is wrong. But so is elevating the unworthy to positions of great power, and pseudo-reverence born of fear.
Some of the best “Wicked” one-liners concern history — making a great jumping off points for student discussions. Why would someone imply that history is a collection of lies, or suggest that truth is merely what we’ve all agreed to? If we challenged students to cite examples of such things, what would they come up with?
And what of being popular — or having all our dreams come true? “Wicked” makes clear the inherent risks of each, plus the dangers of silencing diverse voices. In “Wicked” it’s a highly intellectual goat who loses his voice, but the moral holds true for people too.
There’s real whimsy in the use of language throughout “Wicked” as words get adapted, twisted and recreatified — making the musical an homeage of sorts to word play and the sheer joy or crafting language. I’d love to see a big stack of student essays written to reflect a “Wicked” way with words.
Folks who doubt the economic impact of the arts could learn a little something from “Wicked” in the math department. “Wicked” reports that more than 16 million people have seen the show on Broadway or a national tour, and the show “has grossed more than $1.8 billion for its North American companies.” Beware of those hocking the “cut arts funding” elixer.
Consider the number of cast, crew and creative team members it’s taken to perform “Wicked” all these years. Then think about the extraordinary number of teachers standing behind them. The ethereal shades of purple lighting and seamless scenes featuring airborn actors that wowed me at ASU Gammage last week take real prowess in science and engineering.
We don’t consider such things while experiencing “Wicked,” of course. But they’re worth noting in an age when arts education is going the way of Doctor Dillamond. I’m thrilled that Valley schools are sending students to see productions like “Wicked” — and happier still to know that these students are the next generation of audience members, theater professionals and arts supporters.
Note: ASU Gammage presents Camp Broadway June 4-8 for youth ages 10-17. Learn more about this and other summer camps for children and teens by attending the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Camp Fair — taking place Feb. 25 & 26. Click here for Camp Fair details.
Coming up: I really stepped in it this time…