Elizabeth Moss and Professor George D. Nelson, Theatre and Media Arts
The field of Youth and Family Theatre is a relatively new and burgeoning aspect of the overall theatre world. In the next five to ten years, almost all of the original pioneers of the Youth and Family theatre field will have passed away leaving much of their work and wisdom unavailable to future generations. What we have of their personal histories, besides their published texts and articles, is archived at Arizona State University (ASU). The nature of this archival record, however, makes it almost completely inaccessible to individuals who are not actually on site. Through this mentoring project, I have begun to create a new comprehensive history of Youth Theatre, beginning with the life and works of Aurand Harris.
This project involving the creation of a documentary of Aurand Harris has taught me many things. I worked with talented faculty members at both Brigham Young University (BYU) and ASU. I flew down to Arizona twice to collect and gather research pertaining to the life and works of Aurand Harris. The amount of information was astounding. There were so many pieces of information that I went through: newspaper clippings, personal letters, video and audio recordings, play scripts, childhood masterpieces, all gave me a beautiful and rare glimpse into Aurand Harris.
The process to create a documentary taught me many things as well. I envisioned a simpler project because I did not expect the wide scope of materials that I was presented with. With my faculty mentor, we went through the materials and had to carefully select the pieces we should include in the script of the documentary. It was difficult to make the final selection, but when we were finished, the hard work and deliberation paid off as I saw the final script.
I also learned a lot about the legal problems that are inherit with projects. I thought that copyright laws would be the only problem and since we were able to secure the copyright to the material that we would use, I did not expect the challenge that occurred with the legal system. Even now, the legal department at BYU is trying to negotiate with the legal department at ASU to discuss the royalties of the finished project. I never realized how frustrating setbacks could be. I was only concerned with the finished project and doing the best job I could, but there are always larger matters that need to be considered.
In addition to the experience and knowledge gained with this project, I received other benefits. I was able to include this project and this experience as part of my resume that I used to apply for graduate school. I also made valuable connections with faculty from both universities. I plan on doing an internship with Kathy Krzys, curator of the Child Drama Collection in the Archives of the ASU library. This project has also helped me as it has directed me in my thesis work that I am about to begin. I will take another of the pioneers of Theatre for Young Audiences who has archives stored at ASU and research into that person’s life and work to create my thesis. It is also going to be possible for me to continue this project of the documentaries of the history of Theatre for Young Audiences. With those whom I have worked with on this project, will come other projects of a similar nature. I have developed a network of scholars with similar interests and made connections and communications which will serve to last for a lifetime as I continue in this field.