As a long-time thespian, I view many aspects of the world through the lens of theater. I guess it should come as no surprise that war is not exempt from that lens. I became immersed in the world of theater at age 9 when I was fortunate enough to land in a children’s theater program that insisted not only on a commitment to the theatrical process but also on a commitment to kindness; kindness with each other and with the world at large. Our director began each rehearsal process by laying out her list of 25 rules. Rules 1-24 were, “Be kind.” Rule 25 was, “No gum.” Rules 1-24 opened a window that allowed us to see that being a theater artist was about more than putting on a show. It was about the community we created together and about how that community might be a vehicle for change in the world.
Several years into my tenure with this theater community, we embarked on a year-long journey to produce a show called Peace Child. Based on a book by Bernard Benson with music composed by David Gordon, the show is, in part, a fictional account of a world that has grown weary of and learned its lessons about the atrocities of war. Each year, this fictional world would hold a celebration called Peace Day, and each year during the celebration, a child would be chosen as the Peace Child. The show was performed by children around the globe during the cold war that carried with it the very real nuclear threat that permeated our childhoods. We felt as if we were truly part of something much bigger than ourselves and, with childlike naivete, hoped that we might be part of the movement for real and lasting peace.
The year I spent performing this show was a formative experience in my life and the culmination of that year was nothing short of life changing. Our group was invited to travel to Europe to perform the show with local children’s orchestras in France, London and Geneva, Switzerland. In France and London, we performed in historic churches and other public venues while we forged deep friendships with our orchestra counterparts and gained new perspective about the world through their eyes. The vast majority of my photos from this two-week trip are not of the amazing places that I saw but of the people I met; of the kids whose desire to change the world was the same as mine.
The last two days of this trip were spent in Geneva, Switzerland. There, we were invited to perform for peace negotiators from around the world; people who had a seat at the global table and were in a position to advance the cause of peace. At the conclusion of the performance, we had the opportunity to speak with these powerful people and in those conversations, we spoke to them, in the earnest way that only children can, about our fears, our ideas and our desire for peace.
Wherever there is war, there are children caught in the middle of it. Children in bomb shelters. Children who are separated from their parents. Children who have no idea where their next meal is coming from or if a meal will ever come. Children who have lost everything. Our world currently offers a sad abundance of places for us to witness the atrocities of war and its aftermath. In places like Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and now Ukraine, it is clear that the world has not yet learned its lessons. So, I’m praying. I am praying for every human being caught in the middle of war and I am holding the children who are caught in the middle of war particularly close to my heart. As naïve as it may sound, I am earnestly praying that the world will soon be choosing its Peace Child and celebrating Peace Day. I am praying for peace.