Many times at typical awards shows, the awards are handed out to people who are already rich in adulation and recognition, a sort of self-congratulation for already being famous.
Fortunately, Playing for Others’ Night of Gratitude (this Friday, October 6 at Booth Playhouse) is anything but typical. In fact, it could be considered the exact opposite of your typical awards show.
Instead of the honorees collecting awards that do little to effect change in their communities, the real stars of the show are the teens that Playing for Others works with, focusing on personal development, service, the arts, philanthropy, leadership, and much more.
A group of ten individuals from the Charlotte community are hand-selected by the PFO staff to participate in the Night of Gratitude. However, they don’t merely accept an award, smile and give a half-hearted speech. Instead, they will use their notoriety and accomplishments to inspire and motivate the teens, making the young leaders the stars of the night.
“The goal is to have this diverse group of honorees that represent all these different areas in Charlotte, and they each have their unique spin and their unique take on how to create change in the community.” Says Jen Band, Director of Playing for Others.
Not content with simply handing out awards and posing for pictures, the production will also include a number of songs and performances by the teens. Several multi-disciplinary performances will be showcased based on the teen’s interpretations of the honorees. Each piece is different, and includes everything from a cappella, full instrumental pieces, or spoken word performances.
Band hopes to use the community role models to challenge the teens. “We often ask [the teens] to answer the statement, ‘I am (blank)’, and it’s not a noun. It’s not, ‘I am a teacher, I am a leader, I am an artist’. Instead, it’s adjectives. So ‘I am compassionate, I am driven, I am inclusive, I am powerful’.
“When we have these Night of Gratitude honorees, now the teens have a role model of what that can look like. If they say, ‘I am compassionate’, and they are also passionate about the transgender community, or homelessness, creativity or whatever it is, then they have these role models that are also compassionate, and they’re combining their compassion with their passion to create that change in the world.”
“I am overwhelmed by the honor of being a part of the Night of Gratitude.” says Lara Americo, one of the 2017 honorees. “I am just happy that there is a group that does this kind of thing in Charlotte.”
“The best thing people can do to help out is to come and bring other people with them.” says Band. “It’s all about not just spreading the word, which is great, but it’s really secondary to celebrating all the great work people are doing in Charlotte. Let’s inspire others to do the same thing!”
Finally, if you’re in the audience, remember to use wiggly fingers, instead of clapping, which is the official PFO way of showing love and gratitude.
Photos from previous Night of Gratitude events courtesy of Playing for Others. Photo of Lara Americo courtesy of Lara Americo.