BWW INTERVIEW: ANDREW KUSHNIR LETS YOUNG PEOPLE LEAD THE WAY IN ‘TOWARDS YOUTH’

A 2-hour examination of drama classrooms from around the world, Kushnir had to facilitate a detailed writing and editing process to bring months of research to the stage.

Andrew Kushnir

Andrew Kushnir’s latest work, TOWARDS YOUTH: A PLAY ON RADICAL HOPE, made its debut on February 28 at Streetcar Crowsnest’s intimate Guloien Theatre. While the final product is a 2-hour examination of drama classrooms from around the world, Kushnir had to facilitate a detailed writing and editing process to bring months of research to the stage. Based on his and co-collaborator Dr. Kathleen Gallagher’s travels to schools in China, England, India, Greece, and at home in Toronto, Kushnir also incorporated contextual information from an international network of collaborators to develop an in-depth look into what’s happening in drama classes globally.

With previous experience in documentary playwriting and an ongoing interest in how today’s youth fit into society, Kushnir’s focus was in bringing the real people behind the characters to life in a respectful, honest, and serious manner. “I think something that has been an ongoing practice in my work as an artist is recognizing how the voices of young people deserve more stages and deserve to be magnified in any way possible. I think we often think of them as being taught, but if we find new and better ways of listening young people can be teachers.”

Kushnir’s working relationship with Gallagher, now nearly a decade long, leverages the similarities between both professionals’ studies and work. “Kathleen is paying attention to the way young people talk and the particulars of that – that’s the point of convergence where my form of theatre and her form of research share a lot of values and qualities.” The pair met while Kushnir’s play THE MIDDLE PLACE was on a 21-school tour, including it’s showing at a location where Gallagher was conducting research. When it came time for her to begin her Radical Hope research, she brought him onboard immediately. “She knew that I would have to go to India, to Taiwan, to Greece, to England, and to her site in Toronto to get a first-hand account of what she was seeing in the drama classroom.”

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