Sometimes it seems that as life accelerates with technology and success, our culture loses its oldest values: respect and gratitude toward our elders. But then it seems that all that is needed to regain this traditional trait is some kind of bridge between the past and the future. Last Saturday, that bridge proved to be the Boxtales Theatre Company. In a sweet play called The Ages, children and elders were brought together as lives were shared, interpreted, and expressed. Through a 12-week program, Boxtales produced a spectacle where the kids from Hope School, Monte Vista School, Washington School, and Girls Inc. of Carpinteria were inspired by a generation of older folks. Thus I found myself surrounded by loving families, proud parents, and respected elders as we all watched a little of the future remembering pieces of a vast past.
The Ages was completely run by children. They created, directed, and acted out the whole play. Through Boxtales’ program, these kids interviewed the local elders of our community. We were witnesses of these poignant moments through a cute video montage at the beginning of the show. Men and women (some as old as 103!) answered questions such as “Have you ever been ashamed of something?” and “Have you ever overcome a fear?” Following the interviews, the children selected the most stimulating answers and stories and decided how to perform them. After an introduction from the Boxtales staff and the video, the play proceeded. Dressed all in white, the little ones began with a rowdy classroom setting and a frustrated substitute teacher. Because no physical materials were used-all props and sound effects came from bodies and mouths-and the kids were dressed in white, The Ages glowed with pure sincerity and respect for the elders’ lives portrayed. The children moved through the play brushing up against experiences far beyond those of their present youth like racism, fear, and war. Yet these kids gave up these old experiences to innocence and made The Ages a gentle bridge between two distant generations.
As for the elders, their response to the play was not as clear and energy-infused as the children’s play illustrated, yet it was obvious from the answers given on the video montage and the audience response that they were grateful for having such admirers. Nevertheless, as best stated by The Ages executive artistic director, Michael Andrews: “It’s not the elders who should give thanks to us, but we who should be honored and grateful for the elders.”