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Posted by Philip on 22 April 2013, 12:06 pm in , , , , , ,

National Youth Drama School visit

Saturday 20 April 2013 saw me wing my way to Havelock North via Napier to speak at the opening of the National Youth Drama School.

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For a while I thought we'd never get there, firstly because the flight was nearly an hour late, but then because the flag on the aisle chair I was in was too tall to get through the plane door. How anything actually happens at Auckland Airport never ceases to amaze me.

Sam, who travelled with me, and I played spot the drama student in the airport lounge and on the plane. When we finally arrived at the school we not only realised how well we'd done, but also navigated our way to the venue by people recognition rather than having to ask.

Kathryn Schulz, a self-proclaimed wrongologist, points out how, though we hate to be wrong, more often than not we are. We think something will happen, and something else invariably does instead. This was certainly the case in my imaginings of what I was in for. I had pictures in my mind of being on a stage in front of students sitting in formal rows on wooden benches.

In actual fact we found ourselves in a rather ambiant auditorium with raked seating rising fom the floor, in which the 275-odd students sat. The tutors sat on the floor facing the students. When it was my time to speak I had audiences both in front and behind me. A new experience.

I have to say, I find 13-18 year olds in large groups intimidating. All these fears of being uncool or too old lurk in the back of my mind. It was a lot easier ten years ago when I had my slightly elevated profile to fall back on. Now, as I said to these kids, I have to work harder to put myself in context, as it's their parents, not they themselves, who might remember me. 

I shouldn't have worried. After bantering a bit about being on Shortland Street but admitting that it wasn't really acting, and saying, "yeah, nah" about the people who dropped off my replacement wheelchair calling it "red like a Ferarri," I'd won a semblance of credibility and the students were incredibly generous with appreciation.

My message to them was to recognise what a great opportunity drama gives us to recreate the past and to create the future. Creativity, I said, is one of the most important but undervalued qualities of people. But there are risks that go along with creativity.

As Sir Ken Robinson says, you cannot have an original idea if you are not prepared to be wrong and, going back to Kathryn Schulz, most of us will do anything to avoid being wrong. But, as she asks, what if we're wrong about that? She points out that innovation and advancement only happens by deciding that what we have now is wrong or could be better - if Apple had thought the iPhone 1 was absolutely right, we wouldn't have the iPhone-5.

After 15 years of comedy I decided it was wrong for me. If I hadn't realised that, I'd still be talking shit for laughs and not enjoying it and, I said, I wouldn't have been saying what I was saying to them. 

I went on to talk about Brene Brown's work on vulnerability, pointing out we can't be wrong and therefore creative without being vulnerable, and that the antidote or cousin of vulnerability is courage - not bravery or heroism, but the original meaning: wholeheartedness. I encouraged them to support each other's vulnerability with empathy.

I talked a little about my work on diversity and decay and ended with this poem.

I have to give a big shout out to Claire, Kelie, the tutors, other staff and Board of NYDS - they have something wonderful going on there. Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity – NYDS is giving it a huge breath of life.

Finally as I said I would, I ended by reading out the names of those who helped me to get there by supporting my PledgeMe campaign. I'd like to end this post by mentioning and thanking these and other people one last time. (Original post.)

  • Alexandra Lutyens
  • Tracy Pepper
  • Deafradio
  • Kevin Keys
  • Sonia Yoshioka Braid
  • Jacqui
  • Kim Eruera
  • Melissa Turner
  • Genie De Wit
  • Tony Small
  • Angela Green
  • Gemma