Monday, October 7, 2013

Signature in the Schools Kicks Off an Exciting Year

What do Green Eggs and Ham, Batman, and a classroom of 9th graders have in common?

All were part of the first workshop at Wakefield High School for the Signature in the Schools program!

In mid-September, the entire freshman class of Wakefield received backstage tours at Signature Theatre. Not long after those initial tours, representatives from Signature visited all of the freshman English classes at Wakefield. Over the course of a week, nearly 450 students in 17 classes received the first of three workshops they’ll receive before Signature in the Schools performs in March. This first workshop aimed to introduce students to different ways of storytelling and to encourage them to try something new, like Signature in the Schools.

We started with a familiar topic, prompting them to think about the Batman story and how many different ways it has been retold. We looked at images from comic books; the 1960’s live action TV show; the newer, darker films; video games; and even the Batman rollercoaster at Six Flags. As we discussed the versions of Batman, we encouraged them to think of every possible mode of storytelling. Soon, the students were brainstorming their own creative ideas: visual art, dance, music, action figures, texts, and theatre were among their many suggestions. Later in the lesson, the students had a chance to apply their new knowledge by telling a short story with different assigned mediums.

So why use so many different ways to tell a story?

The variety gives us diverse perspectives, exciting options, and opportunities for creativity. It gives us a “balanced diet” in our art forms. Too often, we prefer to stick to only the most familiar mediums, such as movies. We all understand movies. We’ve grown up with movies. Even within the movie medium, familiarity sometimes limits us. Think about the things that influence our movie decisions: friends, family, previews, location, genre, price. How often do those influences also keep us from trying something new?

Part of the problem is that trying new things is challenging. Mediums like theatre may feel like being stuck in a room where everyone is speaking a different language. We don’t understand it, so we get frustrated and give up before we give it a chance.

 The Signature in the Schools program seeks to help students understand the “language” of theatre and to teach them that if we never try anything new, we’re missing out. We call it the “Green-Eggs-and-Ham” principle: Try it, and you just might like it!

After these workshops, we had over 60 students audition for this year’s Signature in the Schools show, many of whom had never auditioned for anything before. They took the lesson to heart and decided to give this unfamiliar art form a try.

What new thing are you going to explore this week?


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