Last week Mark Twain’s writing came to life on the Hamlin stage. Originally published in 1881, the play delves deeply into understanding both privilege and poverty. The plot revolves around two boys who have their identities switched. One boy from an impoverished background is thrust into royalty, while the other, a soon to be king, is relegated to the place of a commoner.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Hamlin’s Head of School to discuss the intersection of art and social justice. Parents often ask how to approach complicated and unresolvable topics. For Ms. Holland Greene the answer is through art forms like theater, painting, music, dance and literature.
“Art ushers us into conversations in a safe and provocative way and helps capture our consciousness. Twain’s historical fiction speaks to the gap between leaders and those being led. His emphasis on the need for empathy is still relevant in 2016. We are still grappling with wealth disparity, harsh punishments and a lack of equality in our justice system.”
Holland Greene continued by citing poignant quotations from the play, “there is so little that separates us,” and “we are above no one.” As homelessness continues to plague San Francisco and housing becomes tighter, these words speak to us today. Holland Greene concluded by stating, “we should not create a hierarchy of human beings in San Francisco or anywhere in the world.”
When do you feel like a prince? When do you feel like a pauper? How different are people? We are shaped by our stories. How did this one move you?
The Prince and the Pauper will continue to spur conversations in the Hamlin community for many days to come.
-Special thanks to drama teacher Heidi Abbott for helping to create this incredible production.