The Giving Project:
Inspiring Kindness and Individual Empowerment
The Giving Project is an original theatrical collaboration that explores the power of giving. My plan in is to travel to Odugpong Ofaakor, about 30 km outside of Accra, Ghana and live and volunteer at the Good Shepherd Orphanage. While I am there, my goal is to empower the children and educators to share their unique artistic gifts with one another. I will accomplish this by directing an original theatre production of The Gift of the Magi. This story will be a starting point for the community and me to explore their personal artistic gifts as well as the aptitude of giving to strengthen communities.
The focus of ‘The Giving Project’ is individual empowerment and illumination of how an individual’s unique gifts can strengthen a community. The Giving Project will begin here at UCI; I will perform an interpretation of The Gift of the Magi before I leave. This will be a gift I can take to the children and educators at the Good Shepherd Orphanage. The story I have chosen, The Gift of The Magi, explores the selfless nature of giving and loving exchange. The script is structured enough to stand on its own, but open enough that each group of kids can make it their own.
I will be working with the children every afternoon Monday through Saturday. During the first week we will get to know each other a little bit, I will be introducing to the project, while also assessing their theatrical background through conversations. During the second week I will hold formal auditions, in which I will ask the kids to share any talent that they have and read from the script. I will cast the show, and hope to include 15-30 children in the production.
Over the next month we will collaborate and rehearse The Giving Project. The rehearsal will focus on exploring the story The Gift of the Magi, as well as generating new material through improvisation games, viewpoint exercises, and group talent exchange. We will explore possibilities of Ghanaian dances and songs, yo-yoing, headstands, and any other talents the children will share.
What this project will give the Children and the Good Shepherd Orphanage:
All children have enormous energy and potential. The Good Shepherd Orphanage has about 65 orphans ages 3-15 and I want empower them to tell stories, express themselves and recognize the gifts within each other. The production will also give the kids an empower sense of completion and accomplishment. While children are one third of our population, they are all of our future. The future of Ghana depends on these children. I want to give the gift of my artistic talent and energy to them and help shape a future of global interaction, artistic and idea exchange, and mutual love and respect of one another. Creating theatre strengthens our global community.
Also, by making this project fun, exciting, and accessible, I also hope to inspire the community to do future theatre projects after I leave. My hope is that they will take the model I offer of auditioning and rehearsing, and making theatre, and adapt it to their own needs as educators and care takers.
Without a doubt this project will change my life. My passion for acting and creating powerful theatre is matched with a passion for travel and teaching. As much as anticipate teaching the children at the Good Shepherd Orphanage, they will without doubt, teach me a great deal. The experiences I have in the market, in the shade of the trees at lunch with the children, and on the tro-tro (apparently what they call the buses there) will be sensations and relationships that will deepen my work as an artist.
What the immediate future becomes is up to my generation. Giving, giving my art and considering art a gift, are values I aim to embody and pass on. This project will enhance global exchange of ideas, art, and respect. In the age of such great global connectivity, we must become informed and kind global citizens and global artists. Each community has incredibly unique gifts to share with each other. The capacity to travel and collaborate overseas and across country borders can give perspective, expand and strengthen values, and illuminate possibility. I want to create powerful theatre. I hope you will consider supporting me on this journey.
Helen Sage Howard