Advocating for the Arts

Senior spreads an important message while in D.C.

Sydney Looney, Editor in Chief

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photo by Amanda Reynolds/Plume Photography
Senior Brannon Evans embraces with actress Celia Keenan Bolger after received an award from the Theatre Education Association. Brannon traveled to D.C to receive it. “The actress playing Scout told me how she had watched my speech on youtube and she found it moving,” Brannon said. “She also wanted me to share it in front of everyone. I said yes and recited it.”

Typing, deleting, rewriting. Thinking, more typing, more deleting. This was the process senior Brannon Evans used when she wrote her essay for the Democracy Works Essay Writing Contest. This contest was intended to showcase the voices of student advocates of the arts. Evans worked for weeks to carefully craft an essay to submit.

Starting her theater career in middle school, Brannon knew the stage was for her. After transitioning to Millard Public Schools her freshman year, theater become an important way for her to meet new friends and get involved. Since then Brannon has had countless lead roles in both plays and musicals and has also became a Nebraska State Thespian Representative. While being a state representative Evans discovered how much she loved advocating for the arts. That’s why she wanted to take part in the Democracy Works Essay Writing Contest this year.

“I was driving with my drama teacher and my theatre mentor when they told me about the contest,” Brannon said. “My essay was about essentially how I began in theatre and how theatre changed my life.”

On Feb. 26th, Evans was announced the winner of the contest. This meant she would receive $250 cash and a trip to the National Arts Action Summit in Washington D.C..

“Brannon is one of the most hard-working, passionate, self-motivated young women I know,” Brannon’s mother Helen Evans said. “It did not surprise me that she received this type of favor and recognition and I am extremely proud of her.”

Evans and her mom arrived in Washington D.C. on March 4th. During her time there, Brannon participated in a training session on how to be a student advocate and got to read her essay to her peers. She also got to go to Capitol Hill to meet with many government official.

“The best part of the trip was the lecture on the second night which was given by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Rita Moreno,” Brannon said. “I looked up to her a lot growing up and so hearing her theatre story and her take on advocating lit a fire in me  and I was also able to meet her later on the next day which was amazing.”

While at Capitol Hill, Brannon got to spread her views on the importance of theater. She met with Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer and was able to discuss why performing arts matters.

“Watching Brannon prepare for advocacy with the Congressional reps, as well as her interactions with other young thespians and adult leaders was amazing because she is very articulate and a leader in her own right,” Helen Evans said. “I am impressed Brannon has found her voice so early, and I believe she will continue to positively influence others.”

The following week Brannon got to return to D.C after winning another contest held by the Education Theatre Association. During this visit she would receive an award and get to meet the Broadway cast of To Kill A Mockingbird.

photo courtesy of Brannon Evans
While in Washington D.C. senior Brannon Evans performed with the Broadway cast of To Kill A Mockingbird. They did a few scenes in the Library of Congress.

 

“I talked about To Kill a Mockingbird in my essay because it was one of the first shows where I felt like I was a part of something and that I mattered,” Brannon said. “It also so happened at the same time as I was in D.C., the Broadway Cast wanted to do a performance in the Library of Congress of snippets of their show, and they wanted to highlight a student and give them a scholarship.”

Brannon was given a tour of the Capitol building this is when she met the cast. She was later asked to perform with them the next day after one of the actress was unable to fly in.

“The actress playing Scout pulled me aside and said how she had watched my speech on youtube and she loved it and found it moving and wanted me to share it in front of everyone at the dinner,” Brannon said. “Well the director and playwright were there and they liked my speech, so they pulled me aside and said how the next day at their performance they wanted me to do a scene with them.”

After both trip to D.C. Brannon realized how important being and advocate is to her.

photo courtesy of Brannon Evans
Senior Brannon Evans met with other theater advocates from around the country to learn more about the Theater in Our Schools movement. Evans was the only representative from Nebraska to attend.

“This experience has changed me because I have realized how powerful my story is and how much of a voice I have,” Brannon said. “Having the opportunity to see the legislation that backs it up and how I can advocate for other students who don’t realize they have that same power is also empowering. Being involved in theatre in high school has changed my life and I want to make sure other students in our state and across the country have the same opportunity.”

Brannon is not only a leader in the theater department at Millard West but has now become a leader in the fight for more funding of performing arts. Although Brannon is young, her drive to create a positive change is the world is strong. This experience was just one stepping stone of the change Evans plans to create in the world.

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