A central Iowa teenager is among three national winners of the 2020 Democracy Works essay contest, focused on the dramatic arts.
Sixteen-year-old Barrett Edwards is a junior at Grinnell High School who wrote about how theatre has broken down barriers among different groups in his rural community. Edwards says of the 500-some students at Grinnell High, about 80 are involved in theatre.
“My favorite thing to do is our musicals, we have one every two years,” Edwards says. “We just did ‘The Addams Family’ which was fun and I got to play Gomez which was really awesome. I like to sing and act and all that stuff so I just love being involved in theatre.” Edwards says there’s often a clear divide in Grinnell between lifelong local residents and those who are associated with Grinnell College.
He says the arts bring everyone together, no matter where they’re from.”One thing that theatre does, especially within community theatre in Grinnell, is you see a lot of people from different sectors of the community coming together to create art and put on a show in production,” Edwards says. “That’s something that’s very valuable to me as I’ve grown up here.” In his essay, Edwards wrote that he’s “met and collaborated with people of all ages, identities, and roles within the community. Working with people who otherwise would be unknown to me has had a great impact on me.”
He says Grinnell is able to “pitch a big tent” in terms of its audiences, providing the space for everyone to appreciate the arts.
“One thing that diversity brings is creativity,” Edwards says. “When you have a diverse amount of perspectives and different people coming in from all different places, you get a lot of their ideas and their input. Theatre’s all about creativity and creating art in new, different ways and being able to take stories and be able to tell them to an audience.”
By offering family shows that range from “The Little Mermaid” to the works of Shakespeare, Edwards says that the audience is very broad — from elementary schoolers to residents in nursing homes. While he understands it’s a very competitive industry, Edwards says he’s considering pursuing a career as a professional actor.
To read Edwards full essay, visit: https://dramatics.org/pitching-a-big-tent/