You may have seen on Metiza’s Snapchat story that I recently performed in the 9/11 Poetry Slam at my high school. This evening of student-written pieces was actually an assignment for the Humanities Block, a specialized program for advanced theatre students in their junior and senior year.
The Poetry Slam was entirely student-run, from the performances, to the set, to even the directing (our student director was none other than Metiza gal Nick Scaringelli!). The junior students in the program wrote and performed poems based on the events of September 11th while the senior students focused on the prompt “This I Believe”.
This topic was inspired by a novel of the same title, which is actually a compilation of short stories written by various authors. The senior poems were mostly political and covered a wide range of topics, such as feminism, religion, acceptance, and the pursuit of knowledge.
This year, the theme of the slam was ‘Missing’ because every poem featured an element of absence.
The set was designed to look like a makeshift memorial on the streets of New York immediately following the collapse of the Twin Towers. The incredible tech crew, including Metiza guy Percy McCulloch, made a sidewalk out of platforms and even brought in a real fence to add authenticity to the scene. Every actor or actress was assigned to make a poster that they felt truly captured the voice of their piece. Performers removed their poster from the fence one by one until the word “Hope” was revealed painted in the background.
This generation is powerful.
Teenagers typically get a bad rap for “only staring about their phones” or “not caring about anything except themselves”. The people that feel this way really should have seen the actors and actresses that performed in the poetry slam. The night was full of young people speaking their minds on researched political issues.
Every single high schooler was respectful, proactive, and hopeful, and while some may have been cynical, each person’s poem simply expressed a desire for change.
This show proved that teenagers are passionate about creating the future of this country.
It was a powerful experience to be surrounded by such influential peers, and this is so in-line with Metiza’s message that pre-teens and teenagers hold more power than people may think.
The seniors all wrote their poems for very individual reasons, such as to rant about frustrations or force the audience to think deeper about a certain issue. However, my goals were a bit different going into this process. I wrote and performed a personal poem about body image and my own experiences, and I wanted to use this opportunity to gain confidence about where I currently am on this journey. Here is a video and transcript of the piece that I performed:
Weight and Beauty are Not The Two Sides of the Scale
I was on Weight Watchers by the time I was in fifth grade.
That’s before I even learned all the state capitals.
Could I have ever imagined sharing this with 100 strangers before today?
But I also never imagined I would be where I am now.
Happy. Confident. Proud.
It began with Barbie
Tall, blonde, bony Barbie
And no, despite what you may think, I didn’t want to be a human doll
But the stigma was there.
Barbie sparkled in every outfit she picked out.
She never brought 20 items into a dressing room and came out with 0.
Barbie represented beauty. And I didn’t look anything like her.
Society’s views are reflected in media.
Why did Barbie only have one body type?
You do realize if she was alive her legs would snap under her, right?
Why does HGTV feel the need to sprinkle weight loss ads between every episode of House Hunters?
Doesn’t everyone need a house?
Why don’t we just allow people to love who they are?
BMI and health are two different things.
Body mass index.
Yet another way for PE teachers to embarrass plus-size students
Besides forcing them to run the mile, of course.
Oh wait, they make everybody do that!
But where in the fifth grade standards does it say “weigh her in front of her peers”?
Any body in a bikini is a bikini body
Wanting to improve yourself is one thing
But needing to look like the girls in the magazine is another
Dieting was never my favorite extracurricular activity.
Not in fifth grade and not today.
I eat a salad when I crave it.
I stopped dressing for a reflection.
Numbers cannot define my self-worth.
Weight and beauty are not the two sides of the scale.
Happy. Confident. Proud. Human.
As you can imagine, this poem was extremely difficult to perform, especially in front of my peers, but honestly, by acknowledging and taking hold of my insecurities, I helped to make them a lot less intimidating. As I mentioned in my poem, I never imagined I would share my past struggles onstage with 100 strangers but once I did it, I never felt more free or in-control of my life.
Each time I workshopped my performance in front of a supportive audience, it became easier to speak the words with truthfulness and eventually, with pride.
The block kids were all so supportive and called me a role model for performing my poem with such ease… little did they know how terrified I was inside. That’s what us thespians call faking it ‘til you make it!
I encourage you to be open about your insecurities.
No, I won’t lie and say it isn’t absolutely terrifying at first, but once you bring your dark places out into the light, they are a lot less ominous. Of course, you don’t have to go onstage and announce your entire life story like I chose to do. However, if you’re ready to change the way you feel about your challenges, you can start by simply opening up the conversation.
Accept and own your struggles and use them to your advantage. Talk to family members and friends, and rely on your support system. I never would have been able to do this without the support of my parents and sister, the Humanities Block, and my best friend, Kathryn. Who knows, by being true to yourself, you may inspire other people who are too afraid to come forth and speak their truth as well!0