Thursday, October 18, 2012

Making Progress at Marillac

Lisa Golda, COT Teaching Artist

Marillac students, ranging in age in both our after-school sessions from 3rd to 7th grade, are a loving but rambunctious group! Due to the CPS strike, they were the only students who saw the COT production of The Magic Flute at the beginning of the year; a creative and artistic advantage that we are returning to again and again as we work with the kids, who are not always in the mood to focus at the end of their long day! But they are participating, happily if a bit too exuberantly, for the most part, and that is a great place to start.

Students at the COT's Magic Flute
 After some trial and error, we have built enough of a respect and rapport with the students to start each session with silent theatre & sound games, such as clap/gesture mirroring (one student claps a rhythm and sits down; other students stand quickly, mirror it, and sit; repeat!, in SILENCE) to get them focused, looking and listening; and also to create an environment that emphasizes conduct expectations and routine. We have been able to leave that framework successfully for longer and longer periods of time to explore specific aspects of performance and creation focused upon their upcoming winter preview performance, and of course their year-end opera.
This picture is of students acting out the abduction scene from The Magic Flute; part of their preparation for attending that performance! 
We've started staging the Boy and Wolf fable with both classes; an activity that they have requested we repeat, even though we are still teaching them about rehearsal expectations and reining in the inevitable chaos that is part of that process. As usual, some of our liveliest students are wonderful actors and performers. But even our quiet students are supported by their peers in their efforts to express themselves dramatically, and that is really wonderful and unusual. Their attempts to guide and direct each other are well-intentioned, although sometimes disruptive. The first of our two classes is making excellent progress with the fable and will be ready to perform it for Winter Preview.
This week, Justin and I got the other group (a very feisty bunch) thinking about the setting for their opera by showing them the final portion of 2001: A Space Odyssey (dir. Stanley Kubrick). This portion of that landmark film features a chaotic operatic and symphonic score, as well as visual effects that were years ahead of their time and non-computer-generated. The kids watched this colorful kaleidoscope of "space" scenery, interspersed with cuts to the astronaut, in silence. We explained about mid-way through that this astronaut had been marooned in space and was exploring a new space frontier out of necessity. Justin pointed out the fact that computers did not create the effects, and that we had not even landed on the moon yet at the time the film was made. They finished watching the footage. Then we asked them to reflect in their journals upon how the music made them feel, and what they thought the footage represented, since there is no dialogue; and to tell us in words and pictures what they thought was happening. One child remarked thoughtfully that perhaps the astronaut was hallucinating all of the effects, given that he had been marooned and might have been hungry and dehydrated. . .!!! 
The picture above is of the students working--the girl in the background writes extensive reflections, and will probably be one of the primary authors for the script for that class. 
Student's aliens!
 These students are so delightfully positive and supportive of one another. I feel confident that we will be able to channel their initial fascination with The Magic Flute into a unique artistic creation, once we have channeled their energies into appropriate classroom conduct, the process of which is already underway

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