DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Staring Down the Barrel of a Financial Future

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DAREarts and Financial Literacy


“Shylock, albeit I neither lend nor borrow

By taking, nor by giving of excess,

Yet to supply the ripe wants of my friend,

I’ll break a custom.” – Antonio, Merchant of Venice

Director and Adaptor of the play Jennifer Parr spoke to the audience before the performance. “How do you teach financial literacy through the arts? Financial Literacy?  You want me to teach that in a week? How do we do that? The fascinating thing for me has been through Laura’s brilliant literacy exercises combined with what is actually in the play we’ve been able to talk about both and intertwine both every single day. We’ve been working and more and more every day cutting down the play into something very short. I concentrated on keeping in all the Shakespearean language about anything to do with money…”


“We really asked a lot of them and they stepped up to the plate.” – DAREarts Core Program Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon said, “This has been a whirl-wind week. Our 2013 Drama and Literacy Camp. We chose the Merchant of Venice because of the themes of money – debt, contracts, owing someone you know – friendship debt – debt to society – really rich and difficult themes. (these are kids aged 12 – 17) But I’m so impressed with how they tackled all of these issues.” She gestured around the room. “You’ll see all the set pieces are covered with all the material we generated this week as a team. Questions about money, difference between good debt and bad debt, and the web of characters’ relationships we put together after seeing the wonderful production at the Stratford Festival.  And then we spent the past 2 ½ daysImage in a flurry of activity putting together our production of the Merchant of Venice

Andy Dale, a financial professional, answered questions in a circle following the performance. They had prepared them during the week, and now, as young people, they asked some of the expected questions:

“Is going into debt for university/college still worth it considering how hard it is to get a job these days?”

“How do I save my money once I have my first job?”

“How do debit card companies make money?”


Some deeper, more difficult questions:

“What happens when when somebody dies and leaves everything to their kids?”

“Are there programs to get out of crippling debt?”

“Is it worse to have no credit or negative credit?

Some of the answers were comforting, some not so much.  As an adult, watching these young people actively looking for answers before they start their financial lives, I wished I had this kind of guidance, with the hard answers that were provided.

Andy said, “”If you have no money every cent counts. If you have some money, it’s easier to forget about it. If you leave money in a bank, you make money. Isn’t that crazy?” Common sense. So much easier to grasp when you are older and have no money. It takes courage for young people to think about a financial life as something to grow and nurture.

Quite a few of these kids come from financially squeezed situations. They see their parents struggle with money for the basics. They’re thinking of their education.  They know that in order to have a stable life, they need to go to college. How will they do that?  By saving now, when they’re in their teens.  The R in DARE is responsibility.  They’re staring down the barrel of the future, and preparing for the impact of growing into financially active adults.

The themes they looked at throughout the examination of the play were complex and simple at the same time.  They understood instinctually the significance of moral debt. The work that was displayed throughout the room showed how they took the themes and applied them to their own world. Ideas that were presented in an Elizabethan context were as profound now as they were then.

Jennifer looks around the room at the smiling faces, as the children enjoy a celebratory snack after the performance and Q & A. “An incredible experience,so intense and yet so much fun -so satisfying to see the group develop and grow so much over such a short time.”


Gratitude to the volunteers and teachers for their work with the DAREarts Theatre/Financial Literacy Camp. Special thanks goes to the TDFinancial Literacy Fund (SEDI)

I’ll break a custom.” –Antonio, Merchant of Venice


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