The weekend went by in a whirlwind. Here we are on Wednesday and the kids are almost settled back into their routine of going back to “classical” school work. As I sit here and reflect about the past week, I find myself missing the Authentic approach that we have just come from. Our entire middle school was engulfed in a process that had EVERY student experiencing an authentic learning experience. It was such a wonderful experience for me to see how each student have grown into the roles that they chose to do. Many of them have never had the chance to build anything and now they have become set builders. Others have never created, built, and organized props and they became property masters. Students who helped with costumes became costumers. Kids in the booth- became are theatre technicians. Students assigned to the front of the house now have marketing experience. Assistants have became assistant directors and kids on stage you have became actors during this process. It blows my mind that these kids BECAME what they chose to do. It really doesn’t matter that it was only for a short time. They had an amazing out of “classroom” experience. That is what counts….
It is the opening of the show. There is a huge buzz of excitment around Allendale Columbia Middle School. The amount of energy that the kids have today could power all of Rochester. Set and props crew are feeling more and more confident as they practice their set changes. Quick changes are going a little more smoothly this morning and the Tech crew is working to make sure that music cues are being played on time and that mics are turned on. The actors are learning their track (knowing when they go on and off) with confidence. The Marketing crew are getting programs ready for this evenings performance.
Our dress rehearsal went off without too many glitches. The set changes got a little hung up especially with the Mad Hatter Table in the second act…but it is all about practice. They will get it! There are many visual elements that have come to life. The kids now know how each and every one of them is responsible for bringing this story to life!
It is time to take the leap tonight! The kids are coming along for the ride- and boy is it THRILLING!!
DAY 4: Yesterday the time at Allendale Columbia just flew by! We did a complete dress rehearsal with makeup and costumes. It was important that we did this so we could figure out timing. On our final dress rehearsal, I would like things to be more relaxed rather that frantic as it has been in the past. Our makeup crew, who is also our costume crew, got everything together, our tech crew got the mics on the kids and we began our sound checks. While that was going on, I met with the prop and set crews just to make sure they had their run sheets completed. With the help of a stage manager and theatre colleague at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse/Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival. She taught me how to and what formal paperwork that is needed. I took that knowledge to the crews and explained to the crews that they needed to complete a similar or create their own run sheet. A very basic one was given for them to fill out. Costumes and actors had to figure out the art of the “Quick Change” and it all started to come together.
The afternoon was filled with completing the complete run and then running it again with set changes. But we did it! The kids were VERY excited by the end of the show.
As their teacher and director, I realized today WHY blogging is so important. It isn’t about bragging about what you did in your classroom. It is about REFLECTING about what you did and inviting others to reflect on what they read or about their own experiences. I see a whole lot of teaching still going on during the process this week. It may not be about learning about what is in a text book about a specific subject… but it is in there. These are truly getting an authentic learning experience and so am I!
Where has the time gone? It has been a frenzied but exciting couple of days! By day 3 of Play Week, all of Allendale Columbia’s Middle School had seen the exhibit at the University of Rochester and most of them had commented on their experience. I was very excited to read the comments made by the actors, set crew, costume crew, props crew, marketing crew and their advisors. We are connecting the dots to make a picture of Alice in Wonderland Jr. and it was thrilling to see that happen! While the others were away, actors put on their costumes, and we did a bit of a costume parade while we ran certain numbers. Props were working on property tables and charts so that things were placed on the correct side. After lunch we ran the show with various elements. Props were added and there are lots of technical things that need to happen. Set pieces were included . The excitement continues to build! My favorite quote of the day was from an advisor of the Tech crew: Mr. Aaron Shepard : ” I love teaching kids how to build and put things together!”
Day 2 of Alice in Wonderland Jr. Madness has just finished! We had another very productive day. We had the rare opportunity to take a trip to the University of Rochester’s Rush Rhees library where they are holding an exhibit : Alice in the Looking Glass: Illustrations and Artists Books from 1865-2012.(Open now until August 16) Since we are going to the exhibit in shifts; actors, costumers, property builders, set builders, advertising and marketers and theatre techs, by tomorrow, will have completed the opportunity to become a Theatre Dramaturge. (One who researches theatre.) The Collector, Mrs. Jeanne Harper, explained to the kids why she was so interested in the book and what her collection means to her. Her collection was extensive and she was so pleased that the kids were able to visit! What great timing!!
I have given the students the task to answer the following questions:
1) Actors: By looking at these illustrations- what can you use to help your character development- how would you hold your body? Is there something you saw that can help you on stage?
2) Costumers/Make Up: Are there any elements that you would possibly add to an existing costume to make the character seem more like one of the examples you saw in one of the Illustrations? Would it be interesting hair style or Make up choice?
3) Properties: Were there any elements that you thought were interesting? And how would you put them on the stage….
4) Set: What pieces would you put in if we had to design all over again! (Don’t worry we won’t! But I am interested in what you would do if you could!)
5) Tech: What lighting design would you choose? Technical theatre is creative too! Think about it!
6) Advertising: How would you advertise the show? Based upon what you saw today, is there something that you would like to do to the bulletin board outside the theatre to draw more people in?
6) Everyone: How did you like the visit? Would you re-read the book if you haven’t already?
What was thrilling for me was to see the kids make connections with what they saw in the exhibit to what they were doing on stage. And now my students are fully engaged in the process of theatre! WOOT! I can’t wait to read their comments: which should be in the comment section of this blog post.
After our visit, we did another run through, worked with our props and our builders are starting to bring the bare stage alive! The drop was hung and additional trees and mushroom painted. Props crew got the boat painted and built. The bulletin board outside was sketched and painted and the tech crew got mics on and ran lighting cues.As the Mad Hatter Says in our show… ” I want you to LIVE! I Command you to LIIIIVVVE!!” Alice in Wonderland is starting to come alive!
Today begins one of the busiest and productive times in out Middle School- Show week! We are blessed that we have the opportunity to work on the Middle School show, Alice in Wonderland Jr., during the course of our school day- it is our way of working together as an entire Middle School community for one collective goal.
You will see lots of things happening this week- actors trying on costumes, the set going up on stage, out bulletin board getting put up outside our theatre, props being put on prop tables on stage, and lights being hung and programmed. Everything comes together this week. It is crazy but it amazes me at the same time.
I am amazed that the entire group of middle schoolers come and work together. In this process kids are not divided by grade, they make a choice of what they would like to explore in the area of Theatre. They are mixed up in different grades and help each other out. When the Cast and crew take their bow at the end of the show, you realized that every Middle Schooler at Allendale Columbia School has done something to make the show happen. It is a sight to see! I am amazed but not surprised!
And I am forever grateful to my colleagues, who only do this once a year, yet are enthusiastic to help with this huge task that makes us different from other schools.
The buzz will be in the Middle School this week! Stay tuned!