The Playmakers “teaching artists” treat all students in the fourth through seventh grades at Grove Public Schools to subject matter that they would not otherwise study: an introduction to theatre for fourth grade students, Greek Theatre for the fifth graders, Commedia dell’Arte for those in sixth grade, and the Style of Realism for all seventh grade classes.
In 2010 all eighth grade students will learn about Shakespeare’s time and his influence on Western theatre.
“It’s great when you walk into the school and the students yell happily: The Playmakers are here!” reported Suzanne Boles, Artistic Director of The Playmakers. “Even the teachers and administrators are happy to see us. They truly appreciate what we are doing for the students and for the school arts curriculum.”
With the permission of Tom Steen, Superintendent of Schools, and then Upper Elementary School Principal, Ron Cash, The Playmakers began the in-school program with the fourth grades in the spring of 2006.
This year those original fourth graders are in the seventh grade.
“Each year we make comparisons with previous subjects, hoping to reinforce the learning experience,” explained Boles. “Beginning with fifth graders, we also produce a play that conforms to the subject of that grade level, and then an assessment of the play and its performance in a follow-up visit. The objective of this session is to help the students develop critical thinking skills and aesthetic sensibilities.”
This means that by the spring of 2010, The Playmakers will be producing four plays each year in the school. That’s in addition to the five they produce as part of their regular season.
“We could use more teaching artists,” added Boles. “And they don’t need to know a lot about the subject content; we can train them. The willingness to learn something new is helpful, however. The lesson plans are often written as scripts, rather than in a lecture format, and there are activities for the students to perform,” she said. “We could really use some male volunteers which would help combat the stereotypes about male actors. For some reason, the students don’t think of movie or TV actors as theatre actors.”
Some school teachers have begun integrating some of the teaching methods and subject matter into other parts of the curriculum. The mid-school speech and drama teacher, Amanda Pollen, produces the Commedia play for 6th graders in conjunction with The Playmakers. (Students in the Off Broadway Troupers, The Playmakers’ youth theatre group are cast in the other plays.) The beginning lessons have also been taught to students at Turkey Ford School, and in a special summer program for the Boys & Girls Club of Jay.
Helping students learn the value of the arts and especially theatre is a major goal of The Playmakers.
“Not only are the arts inherently important to our lives,” suggested Boles, “but if there are to be audiences in the future, we must encourage them now.”
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer in this program may contact The Playmakers at 918-786-8950 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Don’t be shy,” said Boles. “It will give you great satisfaction. The kids are marvelous.”