Being a Fulbright scholar has given me magical powers. It has inspired me to think I can make a difference in Kenya.
If even one of my Kenyan students retains and uses one lesson in his or her future then I have made a difference. Making a difference is a small thing. And it is enormous.
Having an impact on my students in Kenya will be a continuing process; I do not believe results measure impact. Good teaching must be about students, and not about marks and grades. In the future I hope my Kenyan students ask ‘what more can I do to make this better’ and ‘what do I want to say’ rather than ‘what do I need to do to get by’ or ‘is this enough?’ Being an artist is a calling; it is not just a job. Those who should be pursuing a life in the fields of theatre and television and film will succeed in some way because they will find a way. They can’t not find a way. Nothing will be handed to them; they will make great things.
I am often asked how the students in the United States and Kenya are different. I start by answering how they are the same. They share the same hopes, the same fears, the same obsession with playing on mobile phones, and the same desire to make a difference. They share the same love from worried parents whose love takes the form of not supporting their son or daughter’s desire to study the arts in university, with fear of the future an enemy of the present. Studying theatre and film is what they must do because they can’t see themselves doing anything else. They feel it is what they are good at and they want to make it their life’s work. They share the fact that they will enter a profession that does not need them or want them and may break them. They are the same.
And they are completely different. Cultural customs, economics, funding, facilities, equipment, necessities, politics, and experiences differ vastly. Comparisons are not fair or useful. Nothing is the same.
Regardless, I have challenges for my students at Kenyatta University who I have known for a short fourteen weeks. My challenges and wishes are naïve and optimistic and full of love. I dare you.
I wish for more commitment, bravery, and seriousness of purpose.
I wish for higher personal standards and bigger truths.
I wish for more artistic passion.
I wish for deeper engagement.
I wish for a bigger sense of community, an ownership of the value of your individual identity and the role you can play as part of an ensemble. This will take active work from all of you. You are part of a collaborative art form. Collaborate. Demand more of yourselves and each other.
I wish for happiness and success in all you do.