ABS Thursday Notes- September 14, 2017
Published for the Arts Based School Community September 14, 2017
How We Do It and Why
By Mary Siebert
“The play’s the thing.” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II Scene II
The Arts Based School’s theater department is unique in its very existence. When schools cut programs due to funding scarcity, drama (along with dance) is the first to be cut, provided it existed in the first place. We value drama as a discreet art form, which also provides students with skills that allow them to easily participate in integrated lessons during academic instruction, which might incorporate drama skills.
Bob Moyer (“Mr. Bob”) has been a resident artist at ABS since the school began. (See bios of Mr. Bob and the entire ABS drama team attached.) He has worked all over the world with children and teachers for decades, and studied with Viola Spolin, who is credited with groundbreaking ideas that transformed improvisational theater. Mr. Moyer has equal or greater experience and expertise in teaching acting to children than any expert in the field.
Mr. Bob says that most people can’t act with any notable skill; but it’s the one art form that people think everyone can do, because the skill is transparent. Learning to act like you’re not acting is very challenging, and requires both practice and natural aptitude. Bob says that, at every other school he has visited, acting teachers try to get students to do what they can’t do. But at ABS, we discover what kids can do, give them an opportunity to do that, and then build on success. Our students don’t start out as “theater kids.” They are typical students with atypical opportunities. According to Mr. Bob, most ABS students who aspire for larger roles in our upper grade level performances would never have considered being in a show at all, without the K-4 training and culture of ABS. By the time they reach 8th grade, their collective theatrical power is breathtaking.
In Kindergarten through 4th grade, we have developed techniques that rotate casting, even during a single performance, to make it possible for every child who wants to play a leading role to do so. We tailor the lines to the ability of the student, so they will experience success and feel confident. All students participate in the ensemble and are taught basic techniques: posture, vocal projection, gesture and facial expression, stage direction, finding the light, avoid upstaging, etc. There are adult supports during the performance, from on-stage guidance to side-coaching and narrating.
Some students become so interested in acting, dance, music, (… or soccer, or karate,) that they begin taking private lessons outside of school. They may take part in community theater classes and performances, just as some kids go to science or math camp, or devour hundreds of books from the library. This typically follows interest and innate talent, or the values of their family, and moves students forward to a level that requires greater challenges to keep them engaged.
In the 5th-8th grade productions, students experience more elaborate performances as a single grade-level, which restricts us to single casting. Aside from the demanding values of story-telling, there are developmental issues to consider here. A reading teacher guides the student toward books at the level that will make them feel successful. In math, placement at a too-advanced level may be a long-lasting mistake, causing a student who is still getting comfortable with more basic ideas to label themselves forever as “bad a math.”
Every girl imagines herself as Juliet; protagonists are designed to make the reader identify with that character. But most 10-year-olds would be overwhelmed by the task, in practice. We remind students that every role is important, and it is. If the parents are also supportive and encouraging, students quickly recover from their disappointment and enjoy the process of rehearsal and performance. Even for professionals, this cycle of high expectation and multiple let-downs is an inevitable part of theater. We do our best to give all we have, to the role we’ve been assigned, and try again another day.
We do adapt scripts to fit our students and to create more opportunities, in keeping with our philosophy. For example, we once had a Romeo who struggled with Shakespearean language. We changed the words to make it possible for him to succeed, but the following year our Romeo could effortlessly reel off an entire Shakespearean monologue, so we changed back to original text. We invented a bevy of girls in the Montague family, writing lines for each of them so they could giggle and call out over one another in a flock of excitement. We have created roles for students on the autism spectrum to match their abilities, and we’ve composed small solo singing lines for students who aren’t quite ready for anything extended. (Such alterations are not possible in the case of published works such as The Lion King Jr., whose licensure agreements specifically ban added lines or music. But ensemble is the largest and most important role in this show, which is why it was chosen.)
There is always a group of students who specifically request to have NO speaking or singing roles. We honor these requests, which sometimes come as a surprise to their parents. It’s not uncommon for a child who is very dramatic and expressive at home to be more restrained and guarded in the school setting. Those students should not be pressured, but allowed to develop naturally.
At the upper grade levels, all students receive weekly opportunities in the classroom to improvise, read lines, perform and write scenes, and participate in drama games and exercises, and all of them are coached on audition techniques (which transfer directly to interview skills.) In this classroom setting, all students are required to participate fully, just as they would be expected to do in any other subject. Performances are not the ideal setting for developing these skills; the classroom is. In performances, we strongly emphasize the enduring truth of the art of theater regarding casting: that every role, even the least visible, is important. Even students with a non-speaking role discover the magical value of sustaining a character in the uninterrupted time and space of a high-level performance. The play’s the thing.
Instrument Donations Needed
Please ask your friends and family whether they have any musical instruments they would donate to the ABS stock. We are particularly in need of flutes, trumpets, and alto saxes, all in good working order. We would also welcome tenor sax and oboe. (No trombones, please.) ABS can provide donors with a receipt of donation for tax purposes. Thanks!
Parent Council Meeting – Friday, September 15
Please join us for the first Parent Council meeting of the school year on Friday, September 15 at 8:15 in the MLK Cafe. All ABS parents, families, and caregivers are part of Parent Council and are welcome to attend! Don’t forget that attendance at Parent Council meetings counts toward volunteer hours. The agenda for this week’s meeting is attached to the Thursday Notes.
Fall Festival- September 30th
Mark your calendars for family fun at the ABS Fall Fest on Saturday, September 30th from 12:00 to 3:00 held at the 7th Street building and courtyard! Shannon Shearburn, Fall Fest Coordinator, is working on planning a great event. Class Reps, please contact Shannon at firstname.lastname@example.org if you still need to claim the game that your grade level will sponsor.
K-Kids Celebrates the United Nations World Peace Day – Thursday, September 21! This is a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The theme for 2017 is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” Everyone is invited to participate by wearing BLUE.
ABS Scholastic Bookfair
THE WILD WEST Scholastic Book Fair is coming to ABS September 26-30 (open during Fall Fest!). We will have more books than ever this year, be sure to check out the book fairs in both buildings for a variety of titles for all ages. Students always get very excited about the book fair, it is a great time to stock up on books and support our school.
Our online book fairs will go live on Monday, Sept 18. If you have a particular book you would like to purchase or don’t think you can make it in to school, this a wonderful way to participate. Also, feel free to share the link with grandparents, etc. All books ordered through the online fairs will be sent to the school when the fair closes.
We need lots of volunteers to make the book fair a success! Follow the links below to sign up to help during the fair.
The Book Fair links below (one for each building) offers a chance to preview titles available at the fairs, order books from our online fair, volunteer to work the fair, and a Book Fair App download.
http://www.scholastic.com/bf/artsbasedschoolk4 (MLK building, Grades K-4)
http://www.scholastic.com/bf/artsbasedschool58 (7th Street building)
Hey, friends, let’s go Hog Wild to benefit Youth Programs of Winston-Salem Kiwanis Club – THAT’S US!!!
When: This Saturday, September 16
from 10:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Where: College Park Baptist Church,
1701 Polo Road (1 block west of Reynolda Road)
What: The best finger-lickin’ BBQ you ever tasted! $10/plate or $12/pound + slaw
Arts On Sunday Festival!
When: Sunday, September 17th
Where: N Liberty Street, Downtown Winston-Salem Arts District
Arts on Sunday Festival is a free event. Meet local artists, live demonstrations, bring the kids and make a cool art project at kid’s craft corner – plus live music by local musicians. Free!
All ages are welcome, family-friendly event. Arts on Sunday is sponsored by The AFAS Group – Arts for Art’s Sake Nonprofit. For more information and to check out upcoming youth arts education events, go to: www.theafasgroup..com
1st – Reynolda House & Gardens
Tue, September 19, 9:00am – 11:30am
1st – Old Salem
Wed, September 20, 10:45am – 1:30pm
Kinder – Triad Farmers Market
Thu, September 21, 10am – 2pm
4th – Piedmont Environmental Center
Fri, September 22, 8:45am – 12:30pm
Scholastic Book Fair
Mon, September 25 – Fri, September 29
6th Leab Reynolda House, O’Keeffe
Tue, September 26, 12:00pm – 2:15pm
6th Purdy-Reynolda House O’Keeffe
Wed, September 27, 11:00am – 1:15pm
3rd – Reynolda House, O’Keeffe exhibit
Fri, September 29, 9am – 12pm
ABS Fall Fest
Sat, September 30, 12pm – 3pm
Fall Fest- Rain Date
Sun, October 1, 1pm – 4pm
Kinder – Dixie Classic Fair
Mon, October 2, 8:30am – 2:00pm
1st – Triad Farmers Market
Tue, October 3, 10:50am – 1:45pm
Tue, October 3, 12:15pm – 12:45pm
7th Reynolda House – Georgia O’Keeffe
Wed, October 4, 9:00am – 11:30am
Wed, October 4, 12:15pm – 12:45pm
5th and 8th – “South Pacific” Triad Stage
Thu, October 5, 10am – 12pm
Thu, October 5, 12:15pm – 12:45pm
6th-Olio Glassblowing Studio
Fri, October 6, 8:45am – 10:15am
6th-Purdy-Olio Glassblowing Studio
Fri, October 6, 9:45am – 11:15am
Fri, October 6, 1:50pm – 2:20pm