There were still challenges to overcome as there were always disruptions due to noise and conflicts with other activities and time lines. There were also cultural attitudes that resisted concepts and ideas that persisted even within the leaders. There was a resolve to not expect too much from life. One example was when I suggested to the director that we should plan a field trip to take students to the real Broadway musical version of the Lion King that was playing across the river in Tampa. Oh, he said, we can’t afford that! Well, I said what if money was not the problem - could we go? Oh, sure, he replied - you get the money and we’ll all go.
Not being one to be told that something is not possible, I did the necessary planning and after visiting a few of my professional friends - with whom I have business affiliations - I raised the money and we took several car loads of students to see the live performance. Believe it or not, this experience actually made a huge change in the way many of the students perceived the creative process of performance. They had all seen the movie - but they did not have any idea what it was like to see the huge recreated animal shapes, painted faces and costumes on the actors, and to hear real singers perform on stage. It was life changing. It also impacted on how we imagined that we could be and what we could do. I say we, because I had been assimilated into the community. I became “Miss” Jan. The title of Miss is bestowed respectfully on the elder women in the black community and it was a title to own and be proud of.
It became feasible to imagine that ‘we’ could be actors, singers, and dancers in our own theater and we could bring joy to the Midtown community. We had a purpose and direction. I once read in a book on spirituality that it is a well established understanding that people can live without money or sex, but one thing that they cannot exist without is purpose. We now had our purpose. But, how to train, prepare, practice and gain competence in our challenging environment. How could I prepare materials that could be presented and then practiced by individuals and small groups even when I was not present to lead or teach. How could we learn songs and actions that could be practiced at home and on the bus?
Click to Read Part 4 of Chapter One
Click to Read Part 6 of Chapter One