“The best part of this event is the number of hands that go up trying to get in on the conversation”, read a tweet in reference to “What are We Worth” an event (nay, a class) I was lucky enough to attend tonight as part of Public Forum NYC and Shakespeare in the Park.
What was billed as a Shakespeare reading with some very exciting celebrities (Hello, Matt Damon!), became and evolved into so much more – a real-time example of how to use the Arts as a platform to create a meaningful, shared learning experience.
After a semblance of actors finished reading a handful of carefully selected Shakespeare scenes, a town hall debate emerged, moderated by Harvard Professor Michael Sandel.
The theater was a backdrop, an accessible and enjoyable way to spark debate, learning, and community. Much like an Improv class or a well-told story, the group of patrons (nay, students) that filled the amphitheater seats first laughed and watched together, in this instance bonding through a famous Poet’s words brought to life. Then, these words and emotions were applied to the real world – to guide us, create a shared language and mull lessons learned for some of the most important questions of our time surrounding equality and morals.
Sandel masterfully facilitated an open debate, patrons eager to share their ideas and opinions on economics, poverty, equality, education and the free market. Watching him hold the space for learning was an immense treat and a master class in and of itself.
“Listening to one another is what happened here tonight”, said Sandel.
Curiosity was sparked. Differing perspectives were shared. Connections grew.
I departed the outdoor theater in a daze. A daze so heavy yet so invigorating that I sat on a Central Park bench in wonder for several minutes after, just to absorb it all. (I was in such a fog that I nearly missed Matt Damon strolling right past me).
I felt the way you might after a great movie or a great play – lost in thought, wanting to spar, and discuss, and pursue more. I believe that this is what great classrooms, workshops, and organizations can learn from the arts – to leverage a shared language, an emotional connection, apply lessons learned and use that passion to inspire others to make the world a better place.