Theatre Catylyzes Self-Revelations for Students at the Quincy Elementary School

Posted 11 November 2013 12:00 AM by Masha Obolensky, Target Arts Teaching Artist

Theatre found me in fourth grade by way of a visiting “Great Books” teacher named Mrs. Todd. We put on a courtroom theatricalization of the Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves story. I was cast as Morgiana and I remember thinking that never in a million years would I be able to do a knife dance. And then there was the shy boy playing the judge - never in a million years, I thought, would he convincingly pound the podium with his gavel. I also remember learning the word “gavel” along with other important words like “rehearsal” “projection” and “blocking”.

“Rehearsal” was a time when ordinary children were capable of greatness. Mrs. Todd, our “director,” was from another world where stories were very, very important and we young people were worthy of real respect. Mrs. Todd had spent less time with me than my other teachers, but the nature of our rehearsals required me to share so much of myself that I felt “known” in her presence. And it was in that magical time called “rehearsal” that I became capable of performing a knife dance like my life depended on it and my timid classmate learned to demand attention with his gavel.

As an adult and practicing artist, I have sought out opportunities to offer young people the chance for creative expression. Our Ali Baba cast was large (had to be at least 40) - I don’t know that the experience was as revelatory in the lives of all the other children as it was in mine. The group of young people I work with at Josiah Quincy Elementary School will not all want to spend their lives in the theatre after the Target Arts residency. But it is inevitable that most will open up in ways that they will not expect - there will be small revelations – perhaps it will be a student who is usually quiet speaking in a loud clear voice; or another trying out the physicality of a character very different from themself; or a group of students collaborating to create a fictional world. Creative expression gives us all access to parts of ourselves that are not used in the day to day. We have the chance to stretch our imaginations and deepen our empathy. I look forward in the weeks ahead to witnessing the inevitable moments of discovery and carrying on the legacy of Mrs. Todd.

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