Kids Thrive is producing Cha Cha Sam’s Postcards From Nanna, taking in regional libraries to start conversations about cultural diversity.
Here are Tales From The Road…
The performance of Postcards from Nanna in Kerang was a wildly different one, and lots and lots of fun for all involved. We had an unusual audience at the show – much more of a mixed age group, with quite a few older kids and plenty of adults too. Interestingly, this unexpectedly gave the show a feeling of being at a cabaret performance, as we could play up the jokes and even land one or two squarely on people in the audience!
It’s so lovely seeing an audience of mixed ages laughing and connecting with the same stories and ideas. Of course, young children and teenagers will take away different messages and usually laugh at different things, but that’s the beauty of any art from, really. You can have an entire room of people see the same piece of art – whether it be a painting, a play, a film – and everyone will have an entirely different interpretation. The most fun is sharing those interpretations and having those ‘aha’ moments, where you see something through someone else’s eyes and it reveals a concept or an interpretation that had never even crossed your mind before.
I had such a wonderful time performing such a quirky version of the show that it compelled me to deliver an off the cuff ‘curtain call’. It meant so much to me to have those few moments to acknowledge the wonderful audience. I explained just how enjoyable this show had been to perform, and that it just proved again how every show is so different. The role of the audience is so vital – if the audience laughs easily, joins in readily and is quick to give enthusiastically to the performers, the show just lifts so much. In this case, we could use their enthusiasm to play the ideas and the characters for that extra depth. I hope that we were able to give the audience a really special experience, where they could be right in the middle of it all, laughing, learning and really savouring the theatrical experience.
Really, it’s not only in the performing arts that the more an audience gives, the more they get, but for life. I ended my impromptu curtain call with that very statement – “This is a great reminder for life – the more joy you give, the more joy life gives you straight back.” Just to top off a beautiful show, upon stating that, two lovely Nannas nodded furiously to me.
I’ve mentioned before how lovely it is to see generations laughing and connecting at an arts experience, and it’s so important that our children have the opportunity to interact with a wide range of ages to help their emotional and intellectual growth. But as well as that, we, as adults, have an important role to play in giving our children permission to engage. By encouraging them to laugh and get involved with the arts, and empowering them to test and trust their own creativity, we are helping to create young leaders. The power of improvising, taking offers, playing, interacting and responding quickly to one’s environment is a vital life skill. Next time you’re at a show, or an event, make sure you encourage your child to be a part of it; not just a passive viewer, but an active participant. You’re not only helping young people engage, but you’re actually helping the performers too! The more excited and enthusiastic their audience is, the better the show will be.
We are so thankful to Nerida Dye and Sue Gillingham, who organised the gig beautifully. Nerida explained to us that Kerang is hungry for arts and culture, and that everything is driven by the overwhelming enthusiasm of the community. Nerida herself is not an artist, but she has found herself in the position of organising arts events. She is working and responding to her community’s wants and needs, and in doing so, is creating a highly successful calendar of arts events. The power of listening and responding to the needs of a community, rather than coming in with what one thinks they need or want, will always render the best results.
It is our sincere hope that arts, culture and community connectedness will play a huge role in Kerang in the years to come. Kerang has been gutted by droughts and changing priorities – a few years ago, there were 47 dairy farms in the region. Now there are only 7. Nerida said that farmers had to pay 500 times more per litre of water than Coca Cola does. A very sad reflection on our contemporary habits – Coke is more precious than whole foods?
Many community members of the small towns that we have visited have expressed the feeling that their towns are diminishing. While there is no clean cut answer to such a multi-faceted problem, I hope the arts, culture, festivals, tourism and community enterprise will play a large role in revitalising many regional and rural areas. The next steps – led by our children – will be fascinating, particularly as they form intergenerational partnerships and start to build their communities together. After today’s Postcards from Nanna, we chatted about the possibility of bringing Kids Thrive’s InSchools Philanthropy to Kerang to help kick start community change and leadership with their grade 5 and 6 students. It is an exciting time, and I sincerely hope we can be a part of it.
PS. For those of you visiting the lovely town of Kerang – the Kerang Bakery is a whoppa! The lines are long, but it’s worth it. Long live Kerang!
A big thanks to VicHealth, Arts Victoria, The Australia Council for the Arts, Public Libraries Network Victoria, and the Australian Institute of Social Relations for helping us to bring Nanna to the road.