What I Learned at Middle School
I’ve always been confident in my abilities as a director. I direct often and truly love it. I looked long and hard at graduate programs in directing but changed my course, which I now see was the best decision I could have made.
As a new student in the Educational Theatre program we frequently discuss the value of our artistry and the importance of staying active in the arts as educators. The Fundamentals of Teaching Theatre class has been a perfect transition into grad school for me. I’m beginning with a class where I can easily use my artistry in the course work.
We are directing Disney’s Aladdin Kids with middle schoolers at P.S. 161. That’s right, “We.” We as a class, 18 grad students, are dividing up the jobs of director, choreographer, and designers and directing the show together. With the amazing Professor Katona to guide us, we split the show into 5 sections and in groups are responsible for leading a rehearsal and for the staging of our portion of the show. The class gives us, as grad students, a chance to experience leading a middle school rehearsal with the rest of the class behind us for support. Its controlled chaos, like any good rehearsal is, but the kids have amazing focus and drive. They are able to learn the material much quicker than I anticipated and my group staged our two scenes and a full cast musical number in 90 minutes.
The actors are inspiring by how excited they are by the different elements that go into staging a show. One of the girls in the ensemble raised her hand during our reflection period and said she liked that she got to hold the curtain that was being used as the set. She and another cast member are responsible for a bit of stage magic when Aladdin and Jasmine jump off of the stage and you could see how proud she was that she was in charge of something. The kids own this show. They are excited for any opportunity to be involved. They already take pride in their work, even when they may be unsure of how it fits into the big picture.
The most exciting aspect of this class has been looking at my artistry from a new lens. Theatre is what I know better than anything else. It is what I have devoted most of my life to, and now its new and fresh and challenging again. I was beginning to feel too comfortable directing with adults in a professional setting. While it was still an enjoyable experience it did not spark my imagination the way this process has. Because there are additional challenges besides just giving direction to the actors, it makes me look harder at the material and at my plan for rehearsal. Every moment needs to be planned out, meticulously, and then you need a backup plan for each of those moments. The added awareness of the educational value of the rehearsal for the student makes me invest more in the rehearsal time. Through the program at City College, theatre has taken on a new life and given me new challenges to learn from.