Week 2 was difficult. After days of theater lessons and acquiring skills, it really started to sink in that this program isn't a 6 week long acting class, which would be easy as pie for me... eventually we need a product. It's difficult to gauge when the training wheels should come off, and more difficult to figure out when you have to let go of the handlebars and let them coast. How much guidance do I give them? What kind of vessel do they need to fill with their creativity ? Do I madlibs their script for them, or if I give them enough time will they do everything themselves?
Throughout week 3, which I labeled "Produce Work!" week, I'd give them a writing prompt and we'd improvise off of themes (with plenty of side coaching!) Writing prompts included "write a monologue from the perspective of someone you don't think you could ever agree with," or "what does it take to achieve a dream?" We held class discussions about what kind of secrets should stay secret, how do you know when you're in love, and who comes first- family or yourself? I wish I could ask them all of the big life questions - they are much, much smarter than I am. We came up with a cast of characters - some of them arbitrarily assigned, some of them given to a student passionate about a particular journey, and within a day they seemed to be deeply interested in the emotional lives of these fictional people.
I jokingly gave them the working title "3 people are pregnant and everyone dies", until we realized the difference between the stories we're attracted to and the stories we really want to work on. What they want to explore isn't actually death and high stakes drama about celebrity status people- what they want to write about is love and family ties on the intimate and personal levels. We came up with 4 different apartments with 4 different families, each with their own story - and with the help of a broken (or possibly magical?) elevator, they all come to a satisfying resolution. Their title is "Out of Order", which references the elevator and the nature of the show.
I KNOW, THEY'RE SO SMART, RIGHT????
On TOP of all of that, 4 of them brought in instruments and are proficient and confident in front of an audience. We have a few stellar song writers in the group - they're writing songs for themselves and for each other. I know nothing of music - they're mostly doing it themselves.
What moves me the most, however, is their empathy. Each of these students has an innate sense that people are layered, that villains have heart and good people can make mistakes. They convey these things with subtlety and humor, with gentleness and care. They are incredible humans. I told them so today. I let them know that this trait is special. They are true theater makers - observers of the human spirit.
That and the fact that they can work together so productively!! They don't always get along but they know how to navigate each other with efficiency! I've been in paid work situations that don't run this well. I'm simultaneously brimming with love and pride and kinda disappointed in the rest of the world. I guess my students are just really, really amazing.
Tomorrow we will have a draft of the full-length product, perhaps not in the order it will remain in, but something to work on for the rest of the week. My usual methods - carefully crafted lesson planning - has been falling away, to the point where I basically showed up today and asked them "Do you know what you want to work on?" (Resounding "YES" responses.) "Great, go do that, then." We gather, we share, we support, and then we work some more. We didn't even play any camp games today!! They didn't want to lose their momentum! The most work I did today? Getting them to submit their t-shirt design!
I can't wait to see what they do with the rest of this week!!!!