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Lakeridge junior Sara Shallenberger reflects on the abundance of art and talent in LO schools

When asked why they go to movies, shows, concerts or art galleries, people will give many answers. Perhaps it's because these things are funny, scary or beautiful. Maybe it's because they evoke emotions like joy or sadness. For whatever reason, people enjoy the arts because they have an impact on the viewer.

But people wouldn't make careers out of the arts if they believed that the only impact of their work would be a momentary shift in the emotions of an audience. No one throws themselves into a profession often characterized by financial insecurity without good reason. The fact is, true artists believe that their work can have an impact on the world. The best works of art often reflect the events and concerns of the time they were written. Often, they warn what will happen if an issue is not resolved, or present a solution to a controversial problem. Humor, especially satire, is often used to present the follies of society in a more palatable way. For an exceptional example of artists using their work to highlight an issue, take Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible." Miller uses a narrative of the 1692 Salem witch trials as an allegory for the spread of McCarthyism in the late 1940s and 50s. The popular play ignited controversy over the prosecution of alleged communists during the Cold War.

Another, more modern example? Take Saturday Night Live, the hit late-night television show featuring a cast of comedy geniuses that tackles the week's events every Saturday. Topics covered by traditional news outlets are shown in a humorous light, spreading boring or complex issues to a wide and diverse audience. Actually, every late-night talk show does this in some form, from monologues to satirical news reports.

In visual arts, "Guernica," by Pablo Piccasso, calls attention to Nazi atrocities during the Spanish Civil War. Whatever the medium, art at its finest takes a problem, wraps it up in canvas, humor or allegory, and presents it in a more palatable package to a wider audience. To this end, arts serve to spread awareness, provoke discussion and present different viewpoints.

With arts serving such an important role in our society, there is no reason not to support the wonderful arts programs in our schools. Much of the art created in AP Art classes is available for purchase in the spring. The high school choirs, bands and orchestras in our district are top notch, with many awards to their names. The theater programs on both sides of the lake consistently provide meaningful and high-quality productions.

I'd like to call special attention to theater in our schools, because this year, both high schools are producing very meaningful shows, although they differ widely from past productions. Lake Oswego High School is putting on "Chicago" (November 7, 9, 14, 16) , while Lakeridge will be performing "Urinetown" (November 7, 9, 14, 16, www.pacer-drama.org). Both shows are far cries from last year's "Cinderella" and "White Christmas." In my (biased) opinion as cast member and Lakeridge student, "Urinetown" deserves special attention, and not just because of its confusing title or relative anonymity outside the musical theater community. "Urinetown" tells the story of a not-so-distant future, when irresponsible handling of Earth's resources causes a massive water shortage. Private toilets are outlawed, and a monopolizing company controls public toilets, for which it charges exorbitant fees. "Urinetown" is the story of class conflict between the rich and poor, and a cautionary tale about a reality not so far from our own. While you should come for the hilarious script and lively music, you'll stay for the meaningful social commentary that this musical provides. "Chicago," too, provides a meaningful message about the developing role of women, especially during the jazz age. Neither show catches the public's eye as did the fun, trendy titles of years past — which means it's even more important to show support for your local arts programs.

The bottom line? If you believe that art is more than just funny songs or colors on a canvas, you might just find that putting time into supporting your local arts programs is well worth your while.

Lakeridge High School junior Sara Shallenberger is one of two Pacer Notes columnists. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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