Haircuts by Children
And Other Evidence for a New Social Contract
A cultural planner's immodest proposal: change how we think about children and we just might change the world.
We live in an ‘adultitarian’ state, where the rules are based on very adult priori- ties and understandings of reality. Young people are disenfranchised and power- less; they understand they’re subject to an authoritarian regime, whether they buy into it or not. But their unique perspectives also offerincredible potential for social, cultural and economic innovation.
Cultural planner and performance director Darren O’Donnell has been collaborating with children for years through his company, Mammalian Diving Reflex; their most well-known piece, Haircuts by Children (exactly what it sounds like) has been performed internationally. O’Donnell suggests that working with children in the cultural industries in a manner that maintains a large space for theirparticipation can be understood as a pilot for a vision of a very different role for young people in the world – one that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child considers a ‘new social contract.’
Haircuts by Children is a practical proposal for the inclusion of children in as many realms as possible, not only as an expression of their rights, but as a way to intervene in the world and to disrupt the stark economic inequalities perpetuated by thestatus quo. Deeply practical and wildly whimsical, Haircuts by Children might actually make total sense.
‘No other playwright working in Toronto right now has O’Donnell’s talent for synthesizing psychosocial, artistic and political random thoughts and reflections into compelling analyses ... The world (not to mention the theatre world) could use more of this, if only to get us talking and debating.’
– The Globe and Mail