The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
What can I do to fully prepare a performance or technical design?
Mentees to the Summer Theater Camp and Fall Musical will be able to “refine a range of acting skills to build a believable and sustainable drama/Theater performance” and “use and justify a collection of acting exercises from reliable resources to prepare a believable and sustainable performance” (TH:Pr5.1.II. TH:Pr5.1.III). They will also be able to “participate in rehearsals for a drama/Theater work for an audience.” (TH:Pr6.1.VII) One step further with the Mentorship, however, is that participants will develop a better understanding of the production and leadership side of theater. Each mentee works very closely with the production staff member in his/her chosen field.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
One of the most poignant moments which demonstrated the Core Standards happened during the first session of the Summer Theater Camp production of Lion King. One of our Mentees, Emma Bird, in an emergency-type situation, was asked to step in and take on the choreography for a couple of the numbers due to the staff choreographer having some health issues. She took to the challenge with an open mind and heart and soared! She was nervous, caught off-guard; but took a little time in the morning to gather her thoughts, create some movement, and rely on her own skills. She knew she could ask for help at any given time which gave her the confidence to take on the opportunity–though it was challenging. There were many Core standards met at that time, but one of them would be anchor Standard 5: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation, and TH: PR6.1.VII: Participate in rehearsals for a drama/Theater work for an audience.
One of my personal favorite moments happened when I witnessed Hailey Schuldt, my dance Mentee for Oliver the Musical! take to the stage during a rehearsal and took charge as though she was the choreographer. I needed to take care of a production issue that could not wait, but it was also in the middle of a full cast rehearsal. Instead of having everyone standing around talking and wasting time, Hailey started going through choreography and answering questions. The cool thing about this moment is that Hailey is not a trained dancer. Most of what she knows has been taught through the musical theater experience. Hailey is also a little on the shy side, but this opportunity, and knowing that she had my support and the support of the entire production staff, applied her leadership skills and took charge like a natural. The entire cast was respectful and engaged. I only wish I had had my camera filming the event.
What works best for this kind of project is to have expectations for the mentorship clearly explained to the participants. Our mentorship program is NOT a babysitting service in that our Mentees are there to LEARN and participate at a different level. They are NOT there to be babysitters of a cast or group of people. Before Summer Theater Camp, the older youth that had applied to be Mentees attended a “Mentee Workshop” which guided them through the expectations. It also gave them tools they could use to further the campers’ experiences if any “downtime” happened.
What I would have done differently for the Mentorship program is that I would have changed up the Mentee workshop from the previous years so that those who had attended before would have been more excited about it. It was not as much fun or interactive as they had been in the past.
The biggest recommendation I have for others is to let those kids who are being mentored really have a “hands on” experience. Make sure they know they are supported and their mentor is there to assist or step in at any moment, but giving them the opportunity to drown might just be the moment they fly.