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      PEOPLE SITTING IN A CIRCLE by Barbara Biddison

      blogmon90On Friday, June 26, PBS carried a filmed version of "Gloria: A Life," starring Ms. Steinem and Her Audience, with Christine Lahti in the title role. Now I'm quite old enough to know about Gloria Steinem, so I settled in to watch a 2-hour show. This statement caught my attention: "Social justice movements start with people sitting in a circle."

      Well, I'm a theatre person, so the circle I immediately picture is in a theatre of course. And that's where "Gloria" was, as an off-Broadway, in the Daryl Roth, in amphitheatre layout. Six actors played non-Gloria characters both female and male. And the life story was followed by a 20-minute talking circle for audience members to share. I heard 80- and 90-year old women talking about their experience as a woman way back then, and I heard teenage girls talking about themselves as well as their mothers and grandmothers who worked for equality. Ms. Steinem actually appeared in person at the end.

      It was very well done and I was totally engaged the whole time. I actually felt that I was part of the people sitting in a circle. Hamilton-Gibson has done something like this, though not on such a grand scale. LARAMIE PROJECT comes to mind. And CURIOUS INCIDENT came close.

      It was a good week for the current world concerns with racism, the pandemic, living in isolation, and ways to talk about all this. And to read about it. And so let's include the children too.

      On Wednesday, June 24, the PBS Newshour offered up an interview with Jason Reynolds, the Library of Congress ambassador for young people's literature, a 36-year old black man, who described books and explained how he saw their value for young readers. He had suggestions for books that would help young people learn more about serious issues, as we might expect. And he also promoted the idea that children should have ways "to find distraction from reality."

      One book he mentioned is a whodunit magical fantasy called THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER. And he suggests poetry and environmental issues and all sorts of things appropriate for young people that we adults might not think of. It's time to think outside the box I think. Perhaps we could have "young people sitting in a circle too." If drama camps won't work for social distancing for a while, can we be creative and include ways to have kids participate in the conversation?

      And, by the way, I'm pretty sure that we adults need to find distraction from reality every once in a while too.

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