There is something about theater and young people. Maybe it is the way it galvanizes its participants to stretch and grow, to try things outside their comfort zones. Perhaps it is the community it connects, bringing opportunities for collaborations which can build into memories and friendships that last a lifetime.
Whatever it is, there is no doubt that when theater is included as part of education, students benefit from participation. Through targeted class work and extra-curricular rehearsal and performance cycles, students are given the opportunity to explore new perspectives through character work, imagine new worlds through technical design and using direct collaboration, bring together applied core standard work in reading, math, science and social studies to create unique pieces of performance to share with their families, student body and communities. Performing Arts discipline in schools is where learning comes together and in the theater, all the learning in the classroom turns into something larger than the participants. Truly, the experience is pure educational magic.
In 2016, the original budget for the fall play, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, only encompassed high school students. When auditions came around, due to the addition of the Performance class in the middle school curriculum, many 7th and 8th graders came out for the fall play, more than the original budget could support. That’s where the Yellow Springs Endowment for Education (YSEE) stepped in. Thanks to a generous grant from YSEE, the students at McKinney Middle School were given an opportunity to participate in the fall production after all.
The received grant allowed funding for fourteen middle school students to be added to the cast and crew of the show. The show participated in adjudication for the Ohio Educational Thespian Association (OHEDTA) 2017 State Thespian Conference. Although it was the school’s first year participating in this competition, THE THREE MUSKETEERS was chosen as one of 10 finalists to perform during the State conference in Dublin, Ohio this spring (2017.) Interestingly enough, one of the key elements the OHEDTA judges commented on was how the production included middle school students! This was uniformly praised and seen as a strength for the Yellow Springs district. It was clear to the adjudicators that the middle school participants were at the heart of THE THREE MUSKETEERS ensemble, helping us create the world of the play and in turn, providing a richer and more nuanced production for our audiences; an opinion as the director, I completely concur with.
Competition results aside, what the YSEE grant truly facilitated was opportunity. Without the grant, those students would not have learned the basics of stage combat and of rapier work for the theater or participated in workshops on Anne Bogart Viewpoints work where combinations of movement and intent can aid them not only as performers but in their everyday life. The grant allowed them to make new friends and meet new mentors in their upper classmen cast mates. Best of all, it allowed them to step up and identify themselves as the next generation of theater artists in the Yellow Springs schools. It allowed them to craft their identity in our school community and that is a gift beyond measure.
On behalf of the entire creative team of THE THREE MUSKETEERS and as the Performance and Live Arts Teacher at McKinney Middle School, we could not be more grateful to The Yellow Springs Community Foundation for allowing these students this opportunity. Thank you for all you do for our schools and our community. It is greatly appreciated.