The Educational Theatre Association’s tenth annual Democracyworks essay competition will begin accepting entries on December 1. The winner will receive $1,500 toward expenses to attend Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., March 12-13, 2018, plus $250 cash.
This year’s prompt asks students to address how theatre and other arts can help promote dialogue and understanding between individuals with differing points of view. The prompt was inspired by 2017 EdTA Conference keynote speaker Patricia Raun who spoke passionately about the role of empathy in our society and the need for students to develop “muscles of empathy, authenticity, trust, awareness, and flexibility.” Noting the decline in public civility and the rise of narcissism in recent years, Raun went on to say, “There are many challenges we face as a society but in my opinion, few tools are more important to our survival than the desire to see through someone else’s eyes. The most important ethical choices of our time require us to understand the experiences of other people, and the willingness to put the well-being of others above our own desires. This requires a balance between analytical thinking and empathetic thinking.”
Bearing in mind Raun’s remarks, students are asked to respond to this question: “How can theatre and other arts help to nurture dialogue and understanding between individuals with differing points of view?
“I think Patti Raun really connected to something important in her speech, said James Palmarini, EdTA director of educational policy. “We all know that we are living in an era where a lack of civility and respectful discussion seems to have invaded every aspect of our lives, public and private. Those of us who work in theatre and other arts also know that they can be a safe space, particularly for students, where different ideas and perspectives are welcome as an opportunity to learn and grow.”
The Educational Theatre Association will choose one essay winner based on his or her response to the prompt. Arts Advocacy Day, sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts, brings together arts advocates from throughout the country to meet with legislators on behalf of a wide range of arts issues, including arts education. The essay competition winner and a chaperone must be available to attend the two-day event. The winning essayist will take part in all scheduled Arts Advocacy Day events, including legislative training on current arts issues circulating on Capitol Hill; the Congressional Arts Breakfast; visits to Congress members’ and senators’ offices; and the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dramatics will publish the winning essay and a photo of the winner. The first runner-up essayist will be awarded $150, and second runner-up, $100.
The submission deadline for essays is February 1, 2018. To find out more about Arts Advocacy Day and to register, go to the Americans for the Arts website.