Playwriting

CODE in the County

CODE in the County: Cultivating Creativity

Saturday, November 24th, 2018

PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY COLLEGIATE (PECI)

41 Barker St, Picton, Ontario, K0K 2T0

 
Prince Edward County. The County. A collection of towns and villages surrounded by a beautiful rural landscape. Not only is the County a tourist destination, but it is home to several artists in many different mediums.

CODE in the County – Cultivating Creativity is a one day drama and dance conference focusing on cultivating and building creative capacity in elementary and secondary educators so that they can bring back to their schools, boards, and community. The day is geared toward planting the seeds of knowledge and creativity necessary to reach our students and provide them with rich and diverse arts experiences. Just like the fields around us, we know that if we don’t plant a seed, nothing will grow.

The day will begin with an acknowledgement of the land from local Haudenosaunee representatives, followed by student performances, and workshops for elementary and secondary drama and dance educators. Workshops will be delivered by a cross-section of artists and educators from around Ontario, some of whom are local artists in Prince Edward County such as Paul Snepsts, founder and producer of Toronto Sketch Fest, who lives and works in Picton. The day will culminate in performances by students who have shared in the learning throughout the day, and a keynote address from acclaimed actor and director Bruce Dow, Director of the Festival Players Youth Academy in Prince Edward County.

CODE in the County will be a day that will leave you rejuvenated and ready to tackle the challenges that face you in the days, weeks, and months to come. We look forward to welcoming you to Prince Edward Collegiate Institute for the second part of our 48th annual CODE Conference. We will plant those seeds together.

Conference Highlights

Dynamic Workshops: Sign up for the pathway that best suits your needs and you will get the chance to partake in three workshops that will leave you with material to bring back to your classroom. Our presenters represent diverse voices and come with a wealth of experience that will be inspiring to learn from and work with. For a breakdown of our workshops, check out the agenda link down below!

Track A: Movement and Dance

Track B: Secondary Drama

Track C: Elementary Drama and Dance

“We Wrote This”: Collaborative Playwriting With Our Students – Jerri Jereat

Jerri JerreatFor Elementary grade teachers, Drama can be a little scary. Using a script from a textbook for Reader’s Theatre is a safe fallback. Drama, however, can be so much more if you help the students to write it themselves.

In this workshop, I will walk you through the steps to mentor an entire class to create a play together. It is such rich and active Literacy. I hope it will feel natural by the end of our time, and a technique you might want to try yourself.

I’ve guided many classes to create plays together. It’s only a little scary, perhaps, in that you have to let go of a very structured lesson format. You still have the reins. Unexpected, positive things will happen as the group playwrites together. The shyer students might surprise others. You can incorporate Social Studies, Science or your Math explorations into the play. You will certainly end up having deep discussions about stereotypes, prejudice, history, bullying, world politics, family issues, and of course, weird animal facts.

Drama is a tool through which children are encouraged to create, then to discuss the creation critically, (and they will hotly debate scenes and lines), and to reach out to each other. They don’t have to perform for the school. (You might decide to.) The best Drama learning happens wherever students are suggesting ideas, trying out scenes, critiquing, complaining that this line makes no sense, and changing it.

Be brave; try it.

JERRI JERREAT teaches in the Limestone District School Board. She has a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from U.B.C., and taught a variety of Creative and Freelance Writing courses at St. Lawrence College before ditching adults for children. She has guided over 20 classes from grade 2 to grade 7 as well as groups of high school students (at Queen’s University) to create and write their own plays together. She directed these plays for public performance. She knows nothing about directing, and has been winging it for years.

Her fiction has appeared in The New Quarterly, The Dalhousie Review, The Antigonish Review, Fireweed, Canadian Storyteller Magazine, and Room. Another will appear in an anthology of short stories entitled Tesseracts 21 this spring (Edge Publishing) and one in a different anthology, Glass, Gardens & Solarpunk (World Weaver Press) in July 2018.

Jerri is writing a short Guidebook for Elementary Teachers on the topic of this workshop. 

Teenagers in Love; a Play

Written by    Wednesday, 28 March 2018 11:50 

Frontenac News

Teenagers in Love; a Play

Warning to teens with younger siblings: you are being watched. Closely.

Last week, a class of grades 4/5 students at Elginburg Public School performed a comedy they had written themselves, based on observations of teenagers they know. The cast of characters gives a hint: Muscles, Pizza Eater, Fashionista, Smarty, Bubbly, Cool Kid, Brainy, Cynic. But there are others, too: Newcomer, Teen on Wheels, Religious (A&B), Shy.

Their goal was to present a play that represented a wide variety of high schoolers, and to demonstrate how some of the stereotypes we all carry can vanish when we get better acquainted with strangers. Class research included inviting a refugee family to come tell of their experiences in escaping from a war zone.

In the play, the teacher (played by a natural comedian), pairs her class off to do a history assignment by insisting they ‘work with someone you don’t know, not one of your friends.’ In the course of trying to more or less work together, the students quickly find out that other people are not always what they seem to be.

A student in a wheelchair challenges a scornful athlete to a basketball shootout, which she wins easily, when the athlete has to also manoeuvre a wheelchair as well as a basketball. A pair of awkward boys begin a tentative friendship; a girl obsessed with fashionable clothing learns to feel compassion for a newcomer’s terrible memories of fleeing to Canada.

“We tried to show that when we get to really know somebody who’s different, we can learn to respect each other and each other’s beliefs,” was one comment in the question and answer session that followed the in-school performance.

One of the running jokes about teens was their constant obsession with cellphones and selfies: as a group rediscovers the pleasure of talking together, the Cynic stalks off, muttering that with a cellphone, “you don’t ever have to talk to anyone in person.” However, one of the first questions from the audience was: “Were your cell phones real?” (The answer: a few, but most were calculators or black cardboard).

The class is to be congratulated on their excellent performance: the action moved smoothly and quickly from scene to scene, lines were clearly spoken, they made fast recoveries from the few brief line ‘fluffs’, and, hardest of all, they paused when the audience laughed, which happened frequently.

Teacher/director Jerri Jerreat, an author in her own right, illustrates a very old quote from the Chinese Laozi: “Of a good leader, when his(her) work is done, the people will say, ‘We did this ourselves.’”

Animal Academy: an extraordinary play

“Later on, you can say to yourself, ‘Me and my grade 4 class wrote this play.’ Acting in the play makes me feel great. It makes me turn on my brain and makes me think that maybe I wanna be an actor when I’m older.” (student’s journal)

Teacher Jerri Jerreat’s Elginburg Public School class, whatever grade she happens to be teaching, has an annual tradition of producing a play.

 Through a series of workshops and discussions, her 9-year-old grade 4 students wrote their own play on a topic familiar to all: their anxieties. Real worries, chosen by the students, based on their own experience, were tackled. Some examples: strife at home; fear that parents might divorce; hassles with siblings; bullies; feeling different, clumsy, not ‘fitting in’, not having any friends. Wondering how it would feel to be from another country and unfamiliar with customs in Elginburg, unable to speak much English. Dreading the daily bus ride.

Everyone was costumed as an animal: a clumsy turtle, a bossy bunny and a shy one, a leopard who’s being hassled by a pride of lions. Costumes were all home-made, and intriguing for their simplicity and inventiveness. Who would have thought of using a belt-full of stuffed socks to create an octopus? But it worked!

In the brief course of the evening, the characters in the drama look at both ineffective and effective ways of dealing with the things that worry them, act out some of the positive scenarios, and discover some of the ways daily social interactions might become a whole lot more comfortable.They also conclude that bullies may even be anxious and unhappy sometimes, too.

The finale is a happy dance that invites audience members to join in.

In the creation and performance of Animal Academy, Jerreat and her class pulled off a nearly impossible feat. Together, twenty-three nine-year-olds with no previous experience in live theatre wrote a multi-scene play that was both funny and full of relevant, useful information. Then they produced it as an entertaining, fast-paced performance, using the most basic of theatres: a stage in a gym with no lighting, sound system or sets, and only one bench as a prop. They projected their voices well, managed the timing of numerous quick scene changes, all with stage blackouts (using the one light switch available at the side of the stage), and seldom missed a cue. They had command of their lines, covering the rare line-fluffs by prompting each other.

It was a treat for the proud enthusiastic audience to witness such a fine example of creativity, learning, and excellent, interactive teaching skills.

Written by    Wednesday, 15 March 2017 12:54

Frontenac News

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close