Haka of appreciation for the penultimate performance of iChoose, performed by the boys of Kelston Boys High School – Friday 1 March
by Alastair Thompson
Yes it’s name is a bit like iPhone. And I think that is deliberate. It comes from the US via Norway, and has a Japanese producer from the International Committee of Artists for Peace – whose board members include Herbie Hancock, Patrick Duffy and Carlos Santana.
It’s a thing. A rather cool thing.
And it came to NZ very early in its life in recognition of Te Whiti and Tohu’s teachings about non-violence.
10 cast members 10 performances at 10 schools over a week. Talking to the young ones about bullying.
Making them feel better about themselves and encouraging them not to use passive violence – i.e. to not diss each other.
iChoose is a musical performance for teenagers (think Glee), about school – their school – performed at school, by people from their neighbourhood – people who might be their friends (but who happen to now be professional or trainee actors).
It is in their language. They can see their friends on stage. They can see each other. They can see themselves.
And they can feel the pain that is experienced when passive violence hits its target. How sometimes when someone disses us we feel bad, real bad.
The performance begins with a cool dance number. And then it riffs on youth culture, warming the audience up with demonstrations of what appears to be normal and harmless. In this way it introduces the concept of passive violence. The narrative then intensifies and shows how passive violence builds up pressures, creates the conditions which lead to the danger of real violence and real harm.
And it also explains that the most common form of harm, is self-violence, when we beat ourselves up and do things that are bad for ourselves.
Then at the moment of catharsis one cast member snaps, and the full consequences of passive violence are revealed, the suicidal despair which is experienced all too often by young people. You could have heard a pin drop.
You can watch a very raw video of most of the performance I attended here:
iChoose performance – Kelston Boys High School – 1 March 2013
The performance in NZ was work-shopped and performed over two weeks. Using a US script as a guide the cast brought their own real life experience into a new narrative – they then improvised and rehearsed over a week, and performed it at breakneck speed finishing on 1 March.
Each performance is followed by an opportunity for the teenagers to engage and discuss stuff with the actors. Stuff like bullying and fear and peer pressure. And then they are invited to keep on sharing and talking on Facebook.
the cast of iChoose introduce themselves and talk about their stories
I went to the pen-ultimate performance of the first season of iChoose in New Zealand at Kelston Boys High School.
The year 10s arrived first – and then the year 9s. And everybody is told it was going to be cool, and to chill, by the boss teacher.
Afterwards I spoke to one of the actors who played a particularly intense role in the play, it is she that snaps and tells her friends how bad she is feeling about herself. She told the personal story which lies behind the role of her character in the performance.
iChoose Actor tells her story
I also spoke to iChoose NZ director Lisa Brickell and the producer Kay Yoshikawa who explained (see video below) that the reason they had chosen to come to NZ (after the US and Norway) was because it was the home of Te Whiti and Tohu whose teachings about non-violence were an inspiration to International Committee of Artists for Peace founder Dr. Daisaku Ikeda .
iChoose NZ 2013 Director Lisa Brickell and Producer Kay Yoshikawa
This play is about how passive violence attacks our peace – it is 20 minutes long and it is relevant to all of us.
It has made me think about my use of passive violence – and how the people I like the most are pretty much without exception gentle. And how it is the gentleness in them that I love the most. And how I would like to be more like them.
I choose to strive to stop using passive violence. And I chose to iChoose in the highest possible manner.
– Alastair Thompson | 500 Words Tuesday, 5 March 2013