What's it about?
Tim is a newly homeless teen living in a New York City shelter with his mother. Understandably upset with the way his life seems to have turned out, Tim seeks out answers in the place he loves most, the New York Public Library.
"What makes the world so destructive? Are violence, pain, abuse, and oppression inevitable? Is human nature fixed and unchanging? Why [are we here]?" (the-possibility-project.org)
What I experienced:
I had been to one of The Possibility Project's shows in the past: an original musical called Anthem. The cast was a passionate group of teenagers who were selected solely on their diverse backgrounds and on their desire to effect social change. The cast for Word to the Wise was chosen the same way, but there were new kids, a new venue, and most importantly of all, a new original musical, written by the teen cast with content taken directly from their personal experiences.
I met my mom after work, and together we set off to Brooklyn to find a place to eat that wasn't too far from the theatre. And the space in question was The Irondale Center. It was basically a church, which was a very different kind of place to see a show. It was crazy to me all the places I regularly wound up as a part of my theatregoing lifestyle. I kind of loved it, though.
The musical's protagonist was a skinny, insatiably curious kid named Tim who was trying to come to terms with his and his mother's most recent adversity: being evicted from their apartment and being forced to live in a New York City homeless shelter. But while Tim knew that there were many things he did not understand, and perhaps never would, he still had the sense to keep looking for answers. Every day after school he would return to the New York Public Library to lose himself in other people's words, thoughts, and stories. Tim's biggest questions of all were rather existential in nature: "Why do we try so hard to survive if we don't even know why we're alive?" (*A direct lyric from one of the show's songs) And if life was so difficult, what was the point of living?
I thought back to a comedy show I had seen in September of last year, where Louis CK posed similar questions to Tim's. He argued (rather hilariously) that life was just made up of people who decided not to kill themselves, and that these people regularly made these decisions not to commit suicide despite having serious struggles. Even sick, starving, homeless people, who are ignored on the street daily, were still choosing to wake up in the morning. Louis' conclusion? A life full of suffering was worth living. It must be, because even miserable people chose to live one rather than live no life at all. I thought he made some interesting points, but I was personally glad that I was never put in a position where I seriously considered ending my life. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for many of the characters in Word to the Wise.
Severe bullying, death, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, neglectful and abusive parents, homophobia, poverty... this was the world that these kids were living in. And yet they kept going, fully aware that there was no guarantee things would get better. They were determined not to let the mean city streets beat them down. A Carrie Fisher (R.I.P.) quote that Meryl Streep famously spoke in her Golden Globe acceptance speech earlier this year came to mind:
"Take your broken heart, make it into art." -Carrie Fisher
These kids, many of whom had never performed before, were those words come to life. Even if every note wasn't pitch perfect and every line wasn't delivered in the most convincing way, I never had any doubts that the performers were doing their best to present their truth to me in a positive, creative, and engaging display.
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What did you experience?
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