One of the richest aspects of Fran’s life is being in a classroom. Working with kids she forgets the walls, lose track of noises streaming in from outside. What she is aware of is the faces: faces filled with eagerness, curiosity, even the uncomprehending expressions; and she thinks, okay girl – start your engines - guide these young minds to the next level of understanding and success.  In return young men and women consistently brighten, enlighten and challenge my view of the world and herself. This phenomenon has occurred from Chicago’s South Side to Denver to all five boroughs of NYC, but how did she discover teen voices across the world?franpaper

In 2005 her perceptions got a huge shake-up. She was moved by the life experiences of Harun, a Yugoslavian immigrant she met while working at Queens Academy High School. Harun’s open, direct honesty about the struggles he and his friends endured for safety, education and a voice in Yugoslavian society before Slobodan Milosovic lost power was riveting.  As his Queens classmates listened to Harun’s original monologue they were awed and inspired by the resilience he illustrated and its resonance in their own lives.  All this triggered a curiosity in Fran – to uncover how teens still living in troubled spots cope.

She began leading playwriting workshops in Palestine, Israel and Liberia.  These amazing experiences brought her to the realization that even with 52% of the world’s population under the age of 21, teens remain misunderstood, underrepresented and “voice poor”.

These experiences led her to create two documentaries, breaking walls and its outreach.

breaking walls Community Based/Arts Education

Do you often sense that your students are slow to trust and quick to judge? Are you searching for a way to build an empathetic community while exploring issues of social unrest, intolerance, peer pressure and their life in a “virtual world”. Do you wish to build literacy, critical thinking and presentation skills? breaking walls Arts Education initiative is such an opportunity.

In September 2012 Marie Polinsky, Manhattan Borough GED+ Principal, approached me to screen my documentary bethlehem to brooklyn: breaking the surface for her students, and to lead a writing workshop based on the responses to this film. As her students finished the performance of their original writing Marie said, “When I hear my kids saying they came together as a team to make their writing into this play, I know this is the program for us.”

A breaking walls Arts Education initiative consists of two aspects:

• One (1) documentary screening with accompanying pre-and-post screening questions and discussion.

• Eight (8) 45-55 minute in-class sessions of creative writing, assessment, creation of a Collage Play and presentation for a live audience of the original Collage Play.

We look forward to guiding your students in discovering their voice and offering them a platform on which to use it. Fran welcomes the opportunity to meet with you and answer any questions you may have about this innovative initiative.

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Fran Tarr

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