Sara Litchfield, Opera for All Teaching Artist
Well we are officially in the thick of it with two school performances already done and more to come. At this time of year, I always find that it is very difficult for teaching artists to talk and think about the world outside of Opera for All as our brains are constantly juggling everything from props to song lyrics, dance choreography and blocking. But we are truly blessed to have such a supportive, competent education team from the office who have been present at all of our dress rehearsals and performances helping set up microphones, lights, backdrops, slideshows and anything else that needs to be taken care of so that the TAs are able to focus on the students.
On the day of the performance, our classes usually come to the auditorium an hour before showtime to warm-up and run through transitions between each class performance. I like to start with a high energy movement activity that engages their entire body while allowing them to be stationary since we usually have a lot of kids in one place. I have found that moving a shake or wiggle from your feet, through each part of your body and all the way up to your head tends to effectively wake them up and raise their energy so that they are excited for what's to come. Then this usually moves into a brief vocal warm-up.
My mantra throughout dress rehearsals and performances has been Volume, Energy and Focus, the most important of which is very often focus. These students now not only leave this program with an understanding of all of the elements that must come together to make a successful opera, but they now personally understand all of the things that performers are tasked with remembering during a performance like where do I enter and exit? What is my line? What is my cue? Where is my prop? What is my character feeling when I say this line? Where do I go for the dance/ song? Etc, etc, etc. Keeping track of all of this requires a great deal of focus.
This past Friday, Healy Elementary in Bridgeport successfully completed two performances of their operas. One was for parents and the fourth grade classes while the other was an opportunity for the fifth-grade OFA classes to perform for one another. I could not be more proud and impressed by all of the hard work and dedication that not only the students but teachers and entire school community poured into these operas and the result was truly fantastic. We positioned our classes so that they surrounded the audience when they sang our "Once Upon a Windy City" theme song, which was quite an impressive sound.
This morning, our two classes at Eugene Field Elementary also had their final performance and I can honestly say their operas were the best they've ever been. Many of the students approached me as I was entering the building with pre-performance excitement and jitters and as I mentioned in a previous blog, they were able to harness their adrenaline and nerves into focused performances. I remember how hesitant and shy many of them were to even stand up in class and read at the beginning of the year and now almost every student loudly stood up in front of an audience and not just read a line but performed. Looking back on their transformations makes me very proud and every one of our students should feel very proud of all they have accomplished.