Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Supernova Scenarios - Script and Character Development

Lisa Golda, COT Teaching Artist
The students at Hampton and Clinton are coming up with some out-of-this-world, cosmically cool script and character ideas and are in the final stages of script writing for their operas! At both schools, I've been working with the kids for the past three weeks on guided brainstorming and written journal assignments that complement the teachers' curriculum for literacy while also resulting in characters, settings, and plot-lines for our students' scripts, and material that can be used in the future for songwriting when our lyricist and teaching artist Alyssa Sorresso comes in for songwriting sessions. 
I asked students to create characters, space scenarios, and motivations, which were then woven into stories utilizing logical feedback and random elements from all involved students during class discussions. This process emphasizes writing for the stage, which must establish setting, character, motivation, and plot line quickly and clearly for the audience without lengthy explanation or back-story; a good way to teach kids how to be concise and logical in every day writing.
One student's response to our writing prompt.
Clinton students have decided that their opera will involve alien child-princesses in disguise, a gang of alien-human supervillains, and a trip to a far-away planet. According to Mrs. Kobs' class, Princess Mega-Nebula of planet Nebula, fascinated by Earth and Earthlings, disguises herself as a human child on a dare and travels to Earth, where she impersonates a human teacher. She takes her students on a field trip to outer space, but forgets that she will revert to alien form when she leaves the Earth atmosphere. . .and suddenly transforms into her original, scary appearance (yet to be determined by Mr. Cieslik's class!) Her father shows up to take her home, and her students/peers, after initial horror, accompany her to her home world, where they are introduced to her culture and customs by her fellow Nebulanians. Mr. Cieslik's class will be studying ancient civilizations, so we decided to focus the kids in this class on this aspect of the story since it would complement his coursework. Ms. Kobs felt that her children would benefit from addressing both the students' and their alien teacher's perspectives, and so they were assigned journals on that topic. 
Disaster is brewing in the background, meanwhile, as an interplanetary crew of space-villains led by Dr. Alien Abductor connect via a villains' networking website and decide to band together to pursue their nefarious plots: brain eating, core-stealing, alien slavery and planetary annihilation! Will a genius child, too sick to go on the field trip, intercept their communications with his evil detection tool, or will Princess Elastic infiltrate the evil band and foil their plans? We haven't decided yet. Ms. Breigshuit's class is learning how to "wrap up" a story so, at her request, they are in charge of that element of the script, and have decided that the kids will clone themselves and send the copies home so that their parents are unaware that they are gone. Mrs. Thomas' class invented the supervillains, for the most part, and their objectives. I couldn't make this stuff up. But the kids sure can, given the right steps and an encouraging, creative atmosphere. Many of our students are participating in opera for their second or third year, and that makes a HUGE difference in their comfort level, creativity, and the receptivity of their peers! 
Alien Girl
Students at Hampton are sending their characters on a journey to settle a new world because of an impending supernova that will destroy the Earth. They have populated their ship with a team of settlers including a space doctor, twin sister architects, the Unknown Assassin, a space mechanic, a gourmet space captain on the hunt for ice that will be the foundation of the galaxy's best ice cream, Cookie the ship's cook, and more. Ms. Paz's and Mr. McFarland's classes created these and many more fantastic characters to staff the ship on its exploratory mission. Mrs. Ochoa's class created the residents of Zrdak, the alien world where the human ship lands, and they are the warlike BeardNuggets, SpaceDogs, and Princess Roseberry and her court of Gardeners. When the human ship crash-lands in Princess Roseberry's garden, the aliens must decide whether to observe, attack, or attempt to communicate with the insensitive humans; a good exercise that is a parallel to the work Mrs. Ochoa has been doing on Native American perspectives in her class. This class is creating these potential scenarios in their journals this week, and we will vote next week on the direction of the plot. Mr. McFarland's class will create the "crisis council" scene on Earth, describing the conditions that lead to their decision to abandon our world; and Ms. Paz's class is creating the discovery scene, in which the human explorers land and observe their new world! All of the scenes will, despite this astounding detail, be short and concise, setting the stage for the songs that will follow, to be written in sessions with Alyssa Sorresso! Take a look at a student that was carried away with alien visualization! 

Oh no! He's become an alien!

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