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Summer Stages

Laughing Stock Theatre

Summer Stages is a three-week summer day camp that reaches approximately 40-50 children ages 4-16 and their families. This project provides the students with experience in all aspects of the performing arts, and is a major element in the year-round educational programming, thereby fulfilling that portion of our mission.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How much can we expand our young artists’ imagination while working through a script?

We always start our programs with theatre games and improvisation.  Our goal with this is to make sure the students feel safe and supported while expanding their comfort zones.  While developing characters, all the students in the scene work together to come up with adjectives and verbs that might apply to that character, thus developing observational skills while supporting each other.  The musical numbers in the script especially encourage safe, creative collaboration to bring the scene to life.

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

TH:Cr1.1.Ka:  With prompting and support, invent and inhabit an imaginary elsewhere in dramatic play or a guided drama experience.  Our 4-7 year olds start the program in groups of six or less and the children bring in books/stories that they want to bring to life.  The teacher plays in-role with the children to nurture and support the activity.

TH:Cr.1.1.5a:  Identify physical qualities that might reveal a character’s inner traits in the imagined world of a drama/theatre work.

8-10 year olds have a two day Character Workshop in the second week of the camp during which together they recreate all the different characters of their play physically and vocally.

TH:Pr5.1.8a:  Use a variety of acting techniques to increase skills in a rehearsal or dram/theatre performance.  Our students 13-16 usually take on an adaptation of a Shakespeare play.  Our accomplished teachers use a variety of vocal, physical and textual exercises to prepare them for this work.

In examining the Core Standards, there is very little that our camp does not touch upon.  The above examples are for Theatre, but we also apply the standards to our Dance, Art and Music curriculums.

Impact

The goal/mission of all of our educational programs is “to enrich the lives of young people through theater and artistic experiences.” Our classes and programs are comprehensive, process-oriented experiences. The summer curriculum includes classes in all aspects of theater production: acting, dance, storytelling, improvisation, costume-design, set-design and visual art.  In addition to the standards mentioned above, we also expect the students to acquire skills in the use of the actor’s tools (imagination, voice and body) and a new awareness of the collaborative, imaginative process of creating a piece of theater.

Reflection

We have used many of the same teaching artists from all over the country and from ages 24-68.  The perspectives that the different ages give us is very valuable as is the brainstorming we do.  We meet together both after the program ends and again before the next year begins to evaluate our process and work on how we can have an even greater impact on the students.  One challenge we are working hard on is handling bullying.  We know that to be truly creative, students must feel safe and supported.  We plan on hiring a counselor prior to next year’s session to speak to all the teachers and junior counselors on how to approach this important topic.

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