On my way home tonight I happened to stop at the library (it’s usually closed by the time I get home) and I plucked Yellow Brick Road off of the “recent arrivals” of the nonfiction-DVDs section. It’s a documentary about a New York-area arts program for mentally-challenged and learning-disabled adults (Down’s, fetal alcohol syndrome, epilepsy, severe CP, autism…) that decides to stage a performance of The Wizard of Oz.
Besides being one of the most poignant documentaries I’ve seen in some time, it drove home to me how ingrained is our instinct as a species to tell a story. Here’s a group of people who, in general, have serious trouble driving a car, playing an instrument, writing poetry, doing athletics… yet they relish the opportunity to tell a story, and they rise to the challenge.
Tonia pointed out that two other behaviors we saw in the rehearsals—singing and laughing—also cut across levels of mental ability.
So there it is. Telling a story, singing, and laughing—the universal constants. I knew there was a reason I did this theater thing.
And if you harbor even the least bit of idealism about how theater can affect people, watching Yellow Brick Road will be an hour well spent.
“… and your little dog, too!”