“As artists, how can we make ourselves useful in direct relation to people’s day-to-day lives?” As a stage director, I constantly ask myself this question. For three years now, I have found part of the answer, as a cultural mediator in reception classes with teenage newcomers to Quebec who must learn a new language and live in an entirely new culture. I want to encourage these students to open themselves up to others. I want them to see that culture is a gateway to empathy, to the possibility of living in a world with multiple viewpoints.
Young people, regardless of their culture, are sometimes presented with a stereotypical view of the world. Through art, they discover that, even though each person has a unique path, everyone in their group has the same objective: to express themselves, to understand and to be able to attend regular classes. If their achievement of this goal can be made even a bit easier, then my work is done. And culture directly contributes to this educational success. I watch them evolve from the beginning of the year, when they rely more on gestures than on words, to the end, when they can create and present a story of their own, using the vocabulary they have learned and looking up words in the multilingual dictionary, as if constantly moving from one culture to another.
The reception class program was implemented by Rencontre Théâtre Ados, an organization celebrating its 24th anniversary. It places teenagers at the heart of artistic discovery, particularly during its annual theatrical creation festival. The demand for these workshops initially came from a teacher who wanted to work on spontaneous communication with her students. Very quickly, the number of workshops grew from 15 the first year to 195 the second year, and last year to as many as 400.