October 2019: Guest Blog Post from Bill Byrd, President and CEO of The Canadian Safe School Network
Dear Mixed Company Theatre reader,
My name is Bill Byrd and I am the President and CEO of the Canadian Safe School Network. We are a national, not-for-profit, registered charitable organization with a mandate to reduce youth violence and make our schools and communities safer. We’ve been working in schools and communities across Canada since 1997 giving training and workshops to educators, youth and parents.
As you know, there are many ways to learn and teach.
We can sit in a classroom, read a book, watch a video, or take an online course. But nothing beats experience. There’s an old proverb that says, “Experience is the mother of wisdom”. Mixed Company Theatre takes this proverb and brings it to life. They teach young people valuable lessons and skills for dealing with bullying, understanding mental health stigma, healthy relationships, inclusion, social change, and more. How do they do this? By giving young people the opportunity to participate in the magic of theatre.
In theatre, we can transcend our everyday self and become someone new. We can put ourselves in the place of others and walk in their shoes, even if only for a moment. We can see what life is like from the point of view of our character. We integrate these experiences at a deep level of our being as we act as if we are the person we are playing.
For any theatre actor, this experience can be truly transformative. For young people, it can be truly life-changing. Imagine knowing nothing about what it is like to be different, or to have a mental health diagnosis. Suddenly you find yourself learning lines, practising scenes with your fellow actors, and really getting into your character. The lessons you learn as you get to know your character’s world and struggles triggers a new level of awareness, as you never really thought about life from that other point of view.
By casting young people in productions that teach about confronting bullying, for example, the young actors get to know how bullying works, what they can do about it, and come away feeling empowered, knowing that they really can have an impact on someone’s life, and they really can act to make the world a better place. What better way to teach than this?
So, as people working in this field of safe schools and anti-bullying, we are thrilled to support the work that Mixed Company Theatre is doing. It is complementary to what we do at CSSN. As we all play our part in the great theatre of life, we contribute in all of our diverse ways to bring about our shared vision of creating a world where everyone is safe and included. We encourage you to learn more about the work of Mixed Company Theatre and to attend their workshops and performances.