Theater director guides Dover students with performances
By CHRIS MAYS / Reformer Staff
Posted: 06/04/2013 03:00:00 AM EDT
Tuesday June 4, 2013
DOVER -- Sixth grade students at the Dover School educated fellow school mates about the dangers of alcohol, drug and tobacco use, but instead of lectures they used a more entertaining approach with some assistance from a professional theater director.
"It was really fun," said Dover School Health Teacher Wendy Johnson. "It’s what (New England Youth Theater Director) Peter Gould calls physical theater."
On June 3, the students acted out six different short skits using their bodies to represent different organs within the body. Some used their bodies to make the shape of the lungs while others pretended to be inside the brain of someone drinking alcohol. They also moved around in ways that people would while impaired.
Gould visited the Dover School sixth-graders three days during the week before the performance, working with them for an hour and a half each day.
Gould guided them in creating songs and a rap, using their own words and vocabulary. An intern also came with him to oversee the production.
Six students were in each group. A brainstorming session occurred, where students discussed the health risks, then they were sent to designated corners to improvise their skits.
Then, the students would come together and suggest to their peers what could be added. Then each group would refine their skits, which later became scripted.
Johnson said that by sixth grade, the students have already heard about
the dangers of alcohol, drugs and tobacco. She felt that working with Gould was a wonderful opportunity for the kids and they were thoroughly engaged.
"They might not know all the facts, but they know it’s bad for your health," she continued. "They were able to pull what they already know and make a statement from it, which I think is much more powerful than anything I can teach, maybe."
Johnson told the Reformer that she recommends this approach for any other school.
Last year, Johnson saw a New England Youth Theater production about bullying, called "Rock Your Boat," and thought she’d love for her students to see it.
During the same time, Johnson was in discussions with the district manager of the Agency of Education’s school-based tobacco prevention program.
"She wrote and asked me what my needs were for this year," said Johnson, who then suggested the possibility of a production like "Rock Your Boat." Instead of bullying, the performance would have to do with alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
A grant was then written that provided Johnson with funds to be able to put on a production and cover other related projects.
In January, Johnson was asked if she was still going to go through with a production. She began contacting people at the New England Youth Theater.
Gould, who teaches at various schools and universities, was able to commit to the project, which was funded through the state tobacco plan as well as the New England Youth Theater. He gave the students clown noses and kazoos for the performance.
"I think that it helped them feel ownership to their work and the message that they were communicating to the kids and the rest of the younger students," said Johnson. "I definitely think that it helped some of them find a voice. And being able to express themselves in that way, it was wonderful to see some of them light up and be completely engaged."
Dear NEYT Community, I have some Great Theatre Adventure grant news!
I have just returned from Burlington where NEYT/Theatre Adventure Program received a prestigious award given by the Turrell Fund and the Vermont Children's Trust Foundation. I received the award in front of hundreds of big players in the state in terms of early childhood education and children. Governor Shumlin was there as well. The award we received is called the Lynn Von Trapp award and you can read more about it here at this link.
The Turrell Fund has been very generous to Theatre Adventure/NEYT with many grants over the years. Currently we are funded by them to write our training Guide which is almost ready for press. The Director of the Turrell Fund, Curt Fields, is particularly interested in bringing the Theatre Adventure Program model to other communities. He asked me today, "What do you need now to make this happen? We will help you." I am about to submit the book to Turrell as our end-of-grant report.
Grants from the VT Children's Trust Foundation have contributed to our sustainability tremendously, in the past 5 years. We are currently in our second three-year grant with them. They are a public/private Foundation. The Director, Hilda Green, is the one who nominated NEYT/TAP for the award we received today. She told me today: we are her favorite program in VT that she funds.
I offer all of this great news to keep you in the loop about Theatre Adventure. We are being noticed statewide, which is great for NEYT, great for TAP, and the best for all of the students we serve!
Laura Lawson Tucker
NEYT Awards $20,000 in Scholarships!
The May Awards Committee of NEYT is proud and happy to announce the recipients of this prestigious award to Emily Seymour and Aleda Bliss. These two fine actors will be familiar to NEYT audiences for their many outstanding achievements on the NEYT stage.
Aleda Bliss began her theatrical training at the New England Youth Theatre in 2004. She went on to perform in over 20 NEYT productions, including Mary Stuart, Wait Until Dark, Scapin, The Taming of the Shrew, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Miracle Worker, Oliver!, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Harvey, Little Women, Buried Child and Antony and Cleopatra. She studied for a year at Bennington College and is now in her second year of training at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.
Emily Seymour has described herself as a “die-hard NEYT-er since I was nine or ten”. Her many years on the NEYT stage include performances in The Sound of Music, Little Women, As You Like It, Oliver, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Willy Wonka, The Crucible and Godspell. Emily , who is a student at the internationally acclaimed Atlantic Acting School, founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy, was recently cast in her first feature motion picture. The film, Only Daughter, premiered at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, California.
The May Awards are provided through the generosity of an anonymous donor, in the amount of two -$10,000 awards, or one $20,000 award. The stated intention of the award is to recognize NEYT graduates who, in the carefully considered opinion of the Committee, will succeed in their chosen field of acting, directing, designing, or other facets of theater, television, or film arts. With this success, it is hoped that they will give back to NEYT with their time, talents, and financial support.
Eligibility starts with graduating seniors, and continues right through the student’s graduate and postgraduate education, as long as the student is still fulfilling the requirements set forth by the Committee. The prize may be awarded once or multiple times to the same actor or technical student.
The Committee once again wishes to thank our donors for their enormous generosity and farsightedness. They have the vision and courage to see that NEYT will best survive if it can renew itself through its successful students going out into the world, and spreading the word about the values of youth theater, and seeing the value of supporting NEYT, which has helped to bring them to this point in their lives.