Sunday, July 5, 2009

Days of Freedom

Tomorrow, Olivia and Yannick begin the same six-week summer camp program at Philadelphia’s Freedom Theatre, the same summer camp that I attended through my preteen and teen years. I’m both excited and apprehensive for them because this program ain’t no joke, but I know when it’s all over they’re going to be all the more sharper.

Freedom Theater will always have a special place in my heart because my experiences at Freedom and the life-lessons I learned during my time at Freedom inform so much of who I am today, but Freedom’s bold, uncompromising methods will be a wake-call for both Olivia and Yannick. I wish I could be a fly on the wall the first time Miss Pat walks in and demands 200 jumping jacks. Hell, until two weeks ago, my kids couldn’t even do 10 jumping jacks without bouncing and bobbing all over the room. And, I don’t think it’s because they’re uncoordinated, it’s just because instead of having a traditional gym class at their school, they have a movement class. I’m happy for even that, given the state of many of our school systems that have eliminated gym or physical activity all together.

But, all that ends tomorrow because Freedom’s rigorous program will immerse the two of them in theater, movement and vocal arts and I’m sure after 7 hours at Freedom, they’ll discover muscles they never knew they had. Shoot, I wish I could join them over the next six weeks, because during my days at Freedom, I didn’t have any weight issues and physically, I felt invincible.

In spite of Freedom’s stellar reputation as a premier Black theater in the country and training program, it has had a tumultuous time financially, but through all of their crisis’ they have maintained their performing arts school and summer program, and because of the organization’s fortitude, I am now able to watch the magic they're sure to work on my two children.

Freedom’s summer program seems to have changed very little since when I attended almost 29 years ago. At the camp orientation, both Olivia and Yannick were assigned a monologue they have to deliver for their camp placement tomorrow. I vividly remember the anxiety I felt each year preparing for these placement auditions….butterflies in the pit of my stomach, my voice shaking as I begin the monologue in front of three instructors seated behind a long wooden table in the front of the room… and finally, having to sing a song after I completed the monologue, because although I can do lots of things, I absolutely cannot sing! Despite all of this, I cherish my time at Freedom because I know it prepared me for life, because it was not really about preparing me to be a performer, but to perform at my best at whatever I’m doing, and that’s exactly what Loverman and I want for the both our babies.

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