This is the question that stands at the center of “A Different Life,” TCK’s drama production that opened and closed to a packed audience.  The play tells the story of a typical Jewish immigrant family and the conflict between a mother who wants her son to grow up and become a (wealthy) lawyer and a father who wants his son to take his God-given talents and use them for the purpose he sees fit:  writing and theatre.

This year’s theatre production was unique in that the script was written by TCK’s English and Drama teacher Ms. Socken and because the theme is so pertinent to our 21st century world where parents worry that their children won’t be successful, well-employed, and well-off.  The play is so relevant that several students asked Ms. Socken if she was writing about them.

Sadly, too many kids are being pressured to live someone else’s dream.  Too many see their fate and self-worth being measured in terms of a score or a mark. Too many are pursuing a course of study or career not because they’re passionate about it or because they feel they can make a difference in the world but because our society lionizes wealth and status more so than the inner life, creativity, and a life of meaning.

The students and Ms. Socken artfully gave voice to an important message that all our parents should hear.  The play was serious but punctuated with clever humor.  It was content-filled but not sappy.  It was Jewish but not heavy-handed.  If you missed it, ask Ms. Socken to read it.  It’s worth your time and may liberate yourself from the tyranny of a dream that is someone else’s.

Below are a few poignant excerpts:

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BEN

Everyone belongs somewhere, you know? And it seems incredibly sad to spend your life where you don’t belong.

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BEN

Can you imagine if Arthur Miller’s mother had told him to “just be a lawyer”? What about Mozart or Picasso? If every artist—and their mothers—just thought: nah, it’s not worth the risk, then there would be no music or art or anything beautiful in this world. There is a reason that people are packed into the Metropolitan Museum of Art every, single day, and lined up outside theatres on Broadway, and the ballet, and Carnegie Hall. Because art matters. Because it is not a dream or a luxury—it’s as real and important as anything else in this world. How can you not see that?

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BEN

(calmly, with deep wisdom) You know, people think that tragedies are things that happen to you. But no one understands that something not happening—the gaping absence in your life where something amazing could have been—that’s a tragedy too. I finally realized; I’m more scared of spending my life mourning that loss than I am of taking this chance.

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