Arkansas Schools Tour 2011 - The Poe Show

Thomas: I’ve been having a lot of fun traveling around the state with The Poe Show. We’ve traveled all over Arkansas and seen twenty schools so far. A few consistencies: all the schools seem to really like the show, most start out fairly raucous, and somebody in the audience always thinks Justin looks like Turk from "Scrubs."

I’m from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which is consistently ranked among the roughest and most crime-ridden cities in the nation. That’s right, the nation…look it up. We never had the “luxury” of an experience like The Poe Show because large assembled groups of students at our school, to put it mildly, had trouble behaving. But I think sometimes that our behavior was a self-fulfilling prophecy -- some of our teachers and administrators didn't believe we could handle new experiences, and we perceived that and reacted.

The teachers and administrators that have invited us into their schools this month have made a good-faith gesture to their students. They may not expect the kids to behave, but at least they're giving them a chance. Sure, not every kid in the room is on board -- but not every adult is, either. It means a lot that these students are being given the opportunity at all.

One lesson I learned in high school: if you treat kids like criminals, they'll behave that way. Don’t expect them to fail. Give them responsibility and new opportunities and hope for the best. The students we visit may start off raucus, but eventually it's clear that they love The Poe Show and learn from it -- even in the Pine Bluffs of the state. We're grateful that enough teachers out there believe that live theatre isn't a "luxury" -- it's a way to learn social skills, responsibility, and collaboration and have fun in the process.

There's so much to be done to give students across the state more comparable educational opportunities. We're grateful to the strong-willed teachers who have brought us in and shown their kids they have higher expectations. For many of these students, this is their first theatrical experience -- which means, in a small but meaningful way, it's a great first step.