Don’t Judge Me

by Melissa on June 14, 2010

It was amazing. Last night I was lucky enough to get to see a play, written and performed by two of my former students (along with the rest of the cast), in Venice, California. It was called, “Don’t Judge Me,” and was put on through this organization called Inside Out. The organization is pretty cool, to put it mildly. It’s all about empowering kids through the arts. So, I was pretty excited about it.

These two are amazingly creative. The last play they wrote and performed was all about corporate greed and monopolies. Did I mention that these kids are in junior high? I know. It gets better.

Tonight’s show was about discrimination. And every single scene was taken from their lives- some version of discrimination that they witnessed or heard about. It was so moving I got goose-bumps in the first scene! I laughed and cried! And then I went to my sister’s house and told her about it and she cried!

So I just had to meet up with Riley and his mom at In-N-Out after, where I proceeded to pick his brain and eat half of his french-fries. (Sorry, Ri!) Anyways, he told me all about the process, and it was so brilliant. Inside Out is brilliant.

The kids start off making an idea board off of some prompts:

What are you afraid of?

What inspires you?

What brings you joy?

After that, they vote, and pick a topic to write on. Then they throw out ideas for scenes and characters.

The next step is improv. The teachers record them and transcribe what they say into a script, and the kids are constantly revising it and changing things to bring more depth to the characters and situations.

The play tonight covered all of the topics that these kids experience every day: teasing and bullying, religious intolerance, aspergers, stuttering. Basically, they had scenes with discrimination in every form that kids experience.

They were brilliant. It was so real.

When I look back on my childhood, I remember most of the good, not much of the bad. It’s so easy for us grown-ups to forget how hard and painful growing up can be.

I wish someone would film this production, and show it in every classroom in America. It teaches about compassion.

“Embrace people for their differences and their similarities.”

That was a line from the play tonight. A play that they wrote.

These kids are real writers.

Lucy Calkins wrote that “we write to hold our lives in our hands and to make something of them. There is not plot line in the bewildering complexity of our lives but that which we make for ourselves. Writing allows us to turn the chaos into something beautiful.”

They did that tonight.

And then, the actors broke down the fourth wall, in quite a dramatic manner, and asked the audience, “What can we do to stop discrimination?”

People started calling out ideas! They started a real dialogue about something important to them.

Then they hopped back on stage and ended it by singing, “Where is the love?”

Theodore Roethke, the poet, once said, “If our lives don’t feel significant, sometimes it’s not our lives, but our response to our lives, which needs to be richer.” These kids notice how significant words and actions are. They are working to change people’s minds, and say that they won’t accept intolerance.

With everything going on in the world right now, it’s easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. Last night, I felt OK. Knowing that the future will be shaped by these intuitive, empathetic children gives me so much hope.

They have the tools and the heart to really change things . . . and they’re just getting started.

Melissa is the founder of Tandem Teaching and teaches in the inner-city. She blogs weekly about tips parents can implement to enhance their connection with their children and ways to bring out their children’s inherent gifts. Contact her for a private consulting session.


Jim June 17, 2010 at 5:01 am

“Embrace people for their differences AND their similarities” is a very powerful quote! When I argue for equality, I always highlight the differences and how they’re not a bad thing. I never bring up the similarities. I’ll try that next time!

Heather June 18, 2010 at 10:30 am

It was a wonder play to witness and participate in. Inside Out is a magical organization that is giving these great children a voice. It seems that it is a safe space to explore what might be going on for you in your school or at home. I am excited to see more and I look forward to one when my son might want to join this group.