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“Summer Stages”

nexStage Theatre

In 2017, “Summer Stages” was still a part of the Sun Valley Performing Arts/nexStage Theatre education programming. It took place at the Community School Theatre for three weeks in July every year. The production was the original Broadway version of the musical “Peter Pan.” We chose this piece because of the wide variety and extent of the character work possible within it. The students loved the themes of “growing up” and “home” as well. We had students aged 6 up to 16, and it was inspiring to watch the older kids guide and support the younger ones. The kids also worked on sets, props and costumes. It culminated in a free show open to the public.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How does the addition of music and dance communicate the story of “Peter Pan” differently than a book would?

Our main goal is to introduce the students to the world of theater arts by having them experience it from the inside. We hope to increase their knowledge of music, dance and acting as well as to explore how theater can tell a story differently than other art disciplines. We encourage the children to share their ideas on how a scene or dance should progress and this deepens their ownership of the material. It also develops their critical thinking abilities and confidence in their ideas.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

For our younger students we focused on TH:CR1.1.Ka: With prompting and support, invent and inhabit an imaginary elsewhere in dramatic play or a guided drama experience.” We asked them to imagine and improvise what life was like in their underground home before Wendy arrived. Some of their responses were: “I felt closer to my twin once we imagined where we slept.” and “I realized I’m really lucky to have parents.” The older kids focused on TH:Cr.1.1.5a: “Identify physical qualities that might reveal a character’s inner traits in the imagined world of drama.” We spent the first days of rehearsal working on physical characterizations of Native Americans, pirates, fairies and adults. Some of the responses later were: “It made me realize that grown-ups move slower.”, “It was fun to do everything barefoot.” and “I wish really could fly!”

Impact

Our camp culminates in a fully produced play performed in the wonderful Community School theater. Aside from the performers themselves, another 148 children got to see the play along with 61 adults. The performance was virtually “sold out,” although, we do not charge for this performance, it is free to the public. This gives opportunities to the whole community to come see a wonderful show at no cost. Lots of children in the audience asked me “What are you doing next summer?” “How old do I have to be to join?” If space is available, we will do two free shows next year to introduce even more children to theater arts.

Reflection

Once you realize how powerful and beneficial the theater arts (and all art forms) are for children’s development, it is impossible to deny how important an experience it is for them. After having taught in the Wood River Valley for over 20 years, time and again I meet my students years later and they tell me that they remember every detail of a show we did together. Some have pursued careers in the arts, most have not. But all of them appreciate the experience. Here is a note from a student from Boise who has been at Summer Stages the last 9 years: “I wanted to say thank you so much for this opportunity at nexStage Summer Stages. This camp has changed my life and I wanted to say to you and the teachers thank you. They made me the best actor that I could be. I hope next year I will be a camp counselor at Summer Stages. Thank you. Anthony

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