Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Dramatic Benefits of the BCS Drama Program

As a S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) school, BCS offers music, art, and drama instruction as part of the core curriculum. During weekly drama class, students learn to perform scenes, monologues, and songs from well-known plays and musicals, engage in improvisation, and learn about the technical side of theater including stage direction, scene and costume design, and light and sound engineering. Throughout the year, large-scale drama productions provide students the opportunity to put these skills to use.  This school year includes productions of Haphazardly Ever After (Grades 1-4), The Aliens are Coming (Grades 4-5), Guys and Dolls (Grades 6-8), The Lion King Jr. (Grade K-4), Into the Woods (Grade 5), and A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream (7th Grade).

BCS is fortunate to have on staff two amazing, full-time drama specialists who engage students in this wonderfully creative aspect of the school’s art program. Jocelyn Pickett works with BCS K-4 students and Jeff Clark works with BCS 5-8 grade students. I had the opportunity to talk with both specialists during afterschool rehearsals for The Lion King Jr. and Into the Woods and here is what they had to say about the importance of incorporating a drama program into the core curriculum of any school.

Why is it important to expose all students to drama?

Mr. Clark: It is important to expose students to drama, even those kids who have no desire to perform on stage, because it builds a myriad of skills they may need for future endeavors. Drama provides the students with experience presenting in front of large groups, it teaches them the art of voice projection, and it develops their ability to think quickly on their feet when in a situation in which they need to improvise. Participating in drama also opens the students up socially, requiring them to work with other kids who they may not have chosen to spend time with in a social situation. As part of their assignment, they must create a performance project with this partner—listening to and being heard by the partner. This helps the students develop the ability to listen to the ideas of others and it also provides them a safe place to try out their own creative ideas.

Ms. Pickett: Teaching drama is important because it teaches something that is not often incorporated into a standard school day. Math and science are logical. Life isn’t like that though, and neither is drama. In performance, there is no right or wrong answer. Drama is an opportunity for open creativity and it provides a chance to build creative confidence. It is Ok to make mistakes in drama and in fact, mistakes are wonderful because they may lead to the creation of something beautiful. Mistakes also allow the performer to rebound and improvise. This is an opportunity for pure creation and innovation. The only mistake one can make in drama is to not try or participate.

Another amazing aspect of drama is it teaches one not to be selfish. You quickly learn that the person next to you on the stage is important. This teaches the students to pay attention to the other actors.

What are some of the additional skills students learn in drama class and what are the added benefits of incorporating a drama program into a school curriculum?

Ms. Pickett: As a drama specialist I get to see the actual child; they don’t put on fa├žade in drama class. In drama, students can show how they are really feeling that day and use that emotion as part of their performance. This is true social, emotional learning (SEL). Drama also teaches the students how to deal with disappointment. Not everyone can land the role of Snow White and that is Ok, because Tree #2 is just as important as Snow White in the production. A performance is not about the individual on stage but rather about how to convey a message to an audience. To do this, you need everyone to work together as a group. It is not about one person being a star but rather about creating a piece together as an ensemble. Drama is the ultimate team sport and there are lots of group problem solving skills involved in pulling off a successful production.

How do you choose what the students will act out in drama class?

Mr. Clarke: Currently, the 5th graders are working in class on scenes from the musical 1776. They 1776 was chosen because it aligns with the 5th grader’s core curriculum in history, which focuses on Colonial American and the Revolutionary War. When choosing an afterschool production, it is often all about how to manage the logistics. For example, I need to consider how many students want to participate and then choose a play or musical that has enough parts for all who want to join. After meeting this benchmark, I decide what kind of production would be good to expose the students to. A few years ago we performed Oklahoma, which is an iconic musical because when it was first produced in the 1940s and 1950s, it changed the way all future musicals were created. This musical has real historical relevance and as part of preparing for the production, the students discussed the history of the musical and learned about the time period in which it is set. For every production the students produce, it is important for them to really understand its background and to immerse themselves in its history.

Upcoming BCS Performances:
Performances of Into the Woods will be held on April 28th and 29th at 7:00 pm and on April 30th at 2:00 pm. Performances of Lion King Jr. with the north campus cast will take place on May 5th, 6th and 7th at 7:00 pm, with an additional 2:00 pm production on May 7th. Performances with the south campus cast will take place on May 12th, 13th, and 14th at 7:00 pm with an additional 2:00 pm production on May 14th. Performances of A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream will take place on June 6th and 7th at 7:00 pm.