Giving purpose to my art

SB_Art Camp_Fall 2013_9

In partnership with the Kennedy Center, ASTEP awarded JJ Krehbiel from BridgeWater College with a 2013 ASTEP Fellow scholarship — ASTEP Fellows receive a stipend to cover their travel costs and meals when they volunteer with ASTEP and are selected based on their exemplary leadership and dedication to using the arts to empower communities.

JJ has been in India volunteering with our partner, Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, since August and shared the following:

“Finding a way to combine my passion for theatre and my commitment to being an advocate for a more just world seemed like a distant reality until I learned about ASTEP from Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) last January. As an ASTEP Volunteer Artist in India, I have been extremely fortunate to work at Shanti Bhavan, a residential school for economically marginalized children. During my time at Shanti Bhavan, I have taught literature and writing classes, collaborated with other ASTEP Volunteer Artists to facilitate a two-week arts camp, and had the pleasure to teach and learn from the most inspiring children and young adults I have ever met.

Arts Camp was an immense highlight of my experience at Shanti Bhavan. The students, who are generally the best hope for their families to climb up the socio-economic ladder, strongly crave a creative outlet to deal with all of the pressure that they are under. During camp, I co-taught theatre classes for two age groups along with three other ASTEP Volunteer Artists. Our younger group performed a comical scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At first I was very apprehensive with how they would deal with the challenging language typical of Shakespeare; however, the children blew my expectations out of the water. Our young actors loved hamming it up on stage in front of their older classmates.

The older theatre students created their own piece of theatre using a from-the-ground-up process called devising. After some free-writing exercises, the students decided to focus on the theme of fear. They came up with a varied combination of scary, dramatic and humorous scenes. The focus of their scenes ranged from scary movies, nightmares, the fear of failure, the fear of losing a friend, and the realization that courage is not the absence of fear but the decision to move on. They put on an outstanding performance which their peers thoroughly enjoyed.

Being able to work alongside extremely talented volunteers has helped me improve my own acting skills, and sharing those skills with the children of Shanti Bhavan has given purpose to my art. I have learned far more from my students than what I could ever pass on to them. Their beaming personalities and brilliant humor have had a powerful impact on my life and is the reason why I look forward to coming back to Shanti Bhavan.”

— JJ Krehbel, ASTEP Volunteer Artist and Kennedy Center