When you walk into a class and the instructor says that you and 18 other graduate students are going to direct and choreograph a production of The Lion King, Jr., it seems like a rather impossible task. Yet, in Fundamentals of Teaching Theatre that is actually the goal. Our class has spent the past eight weeks working diligently with the students at PS 161 to put on this production.
We began the process by working together in class at City College. We had six weeks to do all the necessary prep-work before we went into the school for auditions. The time we spent in the classroom was extremely valuable. We learned how to properly structure and scaffold our lesson plans, work on character development and ensemble building with the students, and set up and run an effective audition process.
It was an exciting day when we moved from classwork into auditions with the students of PS 161! All the graduate students were a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect. However, the students were absolutely wonderful! We spent the next seven weeks blocking and choreographing the show. Each graduate student was given a scene or song to direct and forty-five minutes to accomplish this task. After the work we did in class and watching the other graduate students facilitate their lessons, I felt extremely prepared to direct my scene. My forty-five minute session came the day before Thanksgiving break, so the students of PS 161 were a bit rowdy and unfocused. However, thanks to a well-structured lesson plan, I was able to get them to focus, and we quickly made our way through the scene. I was so proud of how well they listened and how much we got accomplished in our short time together.
Once all the graduate students were done directing their scenes, we moved into tech week. Through our partnership with the Fundamentals of Technical Theatre class, we all were assigned to different stage crews. It was a great experience to get a hands-on approach to all of the different elements of technical theatre. For instance, I worked on props, make-up, and wrangling the Hyenas backstage.
When you have a show where every scene is directed by a different graduate student, you would think the show might be a bit disjointed. However, through the hard work of every member involved, the show came together beautifully! The students sang confidently, danced well, and were fully committed to their characters and telling the story. I was so proud of all of the students who performed, as well as all of the work my fellow graduate students. My biggest shout out though has to go to our wonderful instructor, Jennifer Katona. She managed a near-impossible task with such patience and expertise. With her guidance and the hard work of all of the Educational Theatre graduate students, the Lion King, Jr. was an incredible experience I will never forget!