Yesterday the United States Ambassador to Macedonia came, with the mayor of Bitola, to give out the awards to the children who are completing the Creative Writing Camp. Today we did a new assignment that basically uses chopsticks to create a proclamation of the rights of children. We glue the chopsticks to a paper that has been turned sideways once the child has written about the rights of children all over the world. We talked about the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States and what it meant. Then we played (thanks to YouTube) a song by Tose called “This World.” It is an amazing song about the rights of children that seems to both owe a debt to Michael Jackson’s songs about children and move away from concepts of Neverland. If you have time, you should take a look at the musical poem.
After they read their proclamations and tied the proclamation with ribbon we began working on the plays. All agreed on the rights of children to have kind families, to have enough clean food and water, to have access to education, books, and information, to be treated with dignity, to have health care. The debate was over whether or not a child had the right to have a dog. So you can see how things are going here. Things that great men are still debating, are easy to solve here, but the right to have a dog, now that is an issue. Perhaps this battle is fresh in the minds and hearts of some of the children at the camp. I remember this battle with my own child, Meredith Cunningham, who bought a dog and walked the dog four miles home and simply dared me to take that dog (Buster) back. Of course, I did not.
Today, the play is the thing. This afternoon the students will present 6 plays as writer/actors. They are busy memorizing their lines. That is right. I said memorizing. Some of these plays are long, but Macedonia has a great bardic tradition. I discovered this last year when I listened with wonder and amazement to my students, who memorized their play in 48 hours. I did not ask them to memorize their lines. I told them this was “Reader’s Theatre”; that we are a Creative Writing Camp, not a group of roving players.
It didn’t matter. They were sure that I needed saving from myself and the best way to do it was simply present me with the Macedonian reality that you don’t bring paper with your lines on it into a threatre in Macedonia. I had read about the great 20th century bardic tradition in Macedonia, about a man who could simply speak poems for 33 hours at a time, but I had no idea that I would be looking at the bardic tradition with my on eyes and hearing it with my own ears. It reminded me that Mnemosyne (memory) is the mother of the muses. (We will get into their paternity another time). I will let you know how the plays work out in the next blog post.
Until then farewell from the World Capital of Memory, Bitola and the Macedonian Express,
Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools