“Children should neither be seen or heard from – ever again.”
“Never work with children or animals.”
W. C. Fields
If I believed in the two quotes above, I’d be out of a lot of the work I do, and enjoy. As an Arts-in-Education Teaching Artist (TA) in Theater Arts, I work with all ages and groups, from Early Education straight through to the Senior population. Many TA’s cover an even broader spectrum, as many work also in hospitals, prisons, community outreach programs, children/families at risk, special needs learners, youth homes, corporations and organizations with Professional Development, and in training/mentoring new TA’s. It’s an expansive field that I feel is sorely overlooked as a solid profession. Or..it has been. There is ever hope that as things get tougher, there will be a pulling together to really organize what we have to offer.
As mentioned above, I’m a Theatre Arts (Storytelling is part of that, yes) TA. A TATA :).
For those not in the know, there are many TAs in Music, Dance and Fine Arts that also supply a wealth of creative opportunities for all ages. We should all be embraced for what we can offer.
I have seen the benefits through the years of what the Arts offers not only educationally but with life lessons and personal growth. The goal should not be to train/indoctrinate the next major star (although it’d be nice, and any student of mine can always mention me when they get an award 🙂 ). The first word of our title is TEACHING. Educating. Working within the context of the location that hired us, whether within the curriculum of a school or the goal of the corporation/organization that hired us. We teach/lead/coach/share the expertise of our arts discipline to invigorate, engage, help stir creative and critical thought, problem solve, open doors to new ways of expression, hope to instill self confidence, and to have fun with those we are working with. Fun is a good thing, and often overlooked as a learning tool by the narrow focused.
So..why Babes On Broadway?
I am currently working in a couple of different schools. I’ve talked about two of the programs I have running in previous posts: Devised & Collaborative Theater and Process Drama. I am also Directing a MS/HS play at another location. It has been…a learning experience.
I have actually brought one production with students (3-5th grades) to Broadway! We got a chance to present a portion of a play we devised together off of the works of Shel Silverstein, SHELed. This was for P.S. Arts Week in 2008, and we were at the New Victory Theater. It was a lot of work, doing this in an after school enrichment program. Students get sick easily, have appointments that can only be done after school, forget things & often, are tired and hungry…and in the end, they rally together to get the work done.
One of my favorite stories is of one of the 3rd graders, whose major challenge was remaining focused on anything for any real length of time. The night of the performance, right in the middle of a three scene transition, she got bopped in the nose. Hard. She came off stage at the right time, crying to me. I comforted her, made sure she was not bleeding, and as she wiped away the tears..she had to go back on for the last piece. “Ruh Roh” was my thought. Out on stage she went, and she did her BEST performance ever! Timing, volume, energy..all there. Really a proud moment.
Right now, I’m facing a lot of the same problems as stated above, but with an older group who have a lot of extra THINGS going on in their minds and lives. I also came into this project VERY late, as they had been working on it for quite awhile. Some students are amazing in their dedication and respect to others, and…others are not. We are one month away from the show, and many are still on book. They’ll come to one rehearsal, skip the next two, and think nothing of it. Nerves play into a lot of this, egos, that “you can’t tell me anything” attitude I remember so well as a teen myself, and…well..
And then something wonderful just occurs, like yesterday. A young lady who could not stop breaking character, who could not remember a blocking or stage direction or a line, who could not stop laughing during a scene…blew me away. Her character, of a daughter who routinely sees her mother battered by her step father, became so real, so alive, and so heartbreaking in all the important ways: her voice, her gestures & body language… just killed. BTW, that’s a good thing.
I’m hoping for more breakthrough moments like that. Learning, on so many different levels. Seeing life through another person’s eyes.
BTW…from SHELed, and other work, I am very, very proud of one of my former students, who has worked hard to develop his talents, and they’ve just paid off. He’s been accepted into next years Freshman class at Frank Sinatra School for Performing Arts. Good going, Nick. Now..where did I leave that electric hair raiser? 🙂
Follow my ongoing story at Tale Spinning.