September 27, 2012

All The World's A Stage

Fifth graders warming up their wands for rehearsal -
each unique wand was hand-crafted by classmate
Kaden and his grandfather Dave
Dabbling in theatre has always been an important part of a Friends’ School education.  In the second act of one of my favorite comedies, As You Like It, Shakespeare famously wrote:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.

Dramatic play is an essential element in our preschool curriculum.  By pretending to be firefighters, princesses, superheroes, or restaurateurs, three and four year olds are developing many cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills: everything from spoken language, planning, conflict resolution, expressing emotion, seeing the world from different vantage points, to zipping and buttoning.

As our students progress through our elementary school, they have countless opportunities to act out skits, play make-believe, present their work in theatrical form, and participate in formal class plays. 

This fall, we are taking our theatre experience to a whole new level.  I am currently directing our extremely talented fifth grade class in a production of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  With a full raised stage, and utilizing the brand new and fabulous sound system that we have just installed in the Great Room, it promises to be an outstanding show. We will open the curtain (figuratively – alas no actual curtain!) on October 9th at 1:30 p.m. for our school community and again at 5:30 p.m. for the fifth grade families and their guests.

With several rehearsals a week, it’s a wonderful time for me to connect with our graduating class.  I am enjoying their creativity and sense of humour.  We are laughing a lot, and learning that sometimes the best moments in theatre come from gaffes.

Over the many years that I’ve been directing children’s theatre, covering forty or so productions, I have learned many things.  I have learned that involving kids in theatre improves their communication skills, gives them an opportunity to express themselves, helps develop the ability to think critically, prompts them to cooperate with others in achieving a huge joint goal, and fosters peer acceptance and self-worth.

First read-through of the Harry Potter script
The theatre provides a wonderful opportunity to teach the importance of hard work, perseverance through difficulty, a sense of accomplishment, and of course provides plenty of opportunities to laugh.

Through theatre, all children are equal and free to explore. There are no wrong answers to fear and no competition to fall short of - only the chance to try on being someone else and, by doing so, to discover a little more of themselves.

The great Oscar Wilde once said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

And that’s what we’re doing here at Friends’ – the important job of raising human beings. It’s a privilege and a joy to be working on Harry Potter with our fifth grade class.  As we have been preparing costumes, they too have been getting pretty proficient at zipping and buttoning!

We hope to see you at the show.

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