Maka’s Biggest Challenge: A Review by Bonnie Pipkin
Ladies and gentlemen! Step Right Up! Feast your eyes on the creatures and creepers that run wild through the imaginations of our students! See for yourselves: a direct glimpse into the dreamscape! A tour of the mind of a child! We’ve got werewolves, vampires, angels, crocodiles, great balls of fire, a giant Claw Reaper named Bob, some Michael Jackson dance moves, and a journey to the top of a mountain on Challenge Island!
Everyone is a winner!
On Thursday, May 3rd, at PS 15 Roberto Clemente Elementary School in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the students of Arts for All’s Step Right Up program put such a thing as was just described onto the stage. It was our sixth Step Right Up Production at that school (I can’t BELIEVE I’m even writing that!) and it was the latest and greatest of original masterpieces created in this inspiring program.
The Step Right Up Program is a ten-week residency during which students write and produce an original work of theater. The students are involved in all steps of the production: from the creation of the script, to acting, to creating costumes and sets, and finally to performing.
This time around, Robin Cannon and I (Bonnie Pipkin) worked with ten 4th and 5th grade students in the after school program. We wrote a story called MAKA’S BIGGEST CHALLENGE wherein an angel named Maka, her best friend Bleach, and her faithful dragon companion named Crystal, had to get through a series of challenges and reach the King of Light… or the world would grow dark. A cunning vampire named Rachael and a slick werewolf named Justin are on their tails trying to thwart them at every turn. For they- being creatures of the night- are of course more at ease in a dark world. But the strength and perseverance of friendship and courage are what save the world.
And I can’t make that kind of stuff up! That is pure 10 and 11 year old imagination come to life.
We did a lot this round with choreography, thanks to the expertise of Robin Cannon. And overall, the 25 minute show was a visual feat! I was so very proud of the ten students that stuck it through and really committed to making this show amazing. During Step Right Up, we try to teach resourcefulness as well as commitment. It takes a commitment to put up a show as each rehearsal builds upon the last. These students amazed this old veteran who usually has to pull out a few teeth (metaphorically, of course) to get the students to memorize their lines. Many of these particular students knew EVERYONE’S lines. I’m not kidding.
So yes, we wrote a play. We choreographed. We rehearsed. We painted a giant painting of a volcano. We made some costumes. Clayton Colwell wrote us some tunes to dance to. And then we did it. One rehearsal, the students were so inspired that they wrote a song that goes a little something like this:
This is impossible! This is impossible! This can’t be! This can’t be! This IS possible! This IS possible! Look at me! Look at me!
When students are given the opportunity to tell the stories swirling around in their brains- and then see them come to life- it is truly inspiring for everyone involved. These kids constantly remind me that this IS POSSIBLE!
MAKA’S BIGGEST CHALLENGE came to life on May 3rd. And all the kids went home proud of what they created and what they accomplished.
So did I.
We’re excited to be starting 2012 off with a bang! Already this year, we’ve offered a number of exciting programs, and we’re still going very strong as we approach the end of February.
Teaching artist Mèlissa Smith kicked off January by teaching weekly movement and dance workshops to students K-1 at Project C.O.O.L. after-school program in the East Village. Teaching artist Robin Cannon took Arts For All to the outer boroughs with weekly drama programs at PS 69 in Staten Island and The Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights.
We’re also thrilled to be further developing our Literacy Through the Arts program- an initiative that serves students K-2 and focuses on improving reading, writing, and verbal expression skills through a multi-arts curriculum of music, dance, and visual arts. Teaching artists Shawn Shafner, Lena Moy-Borgen, and Robin Cannon are scheduled to teach LTA programs each week through May 2012 at PS 15, and this program is also expanding to Kindergarteners at Hamilton Heights Elementary in Harlem!!
This February saw the return of teaching artist Bonnie Pipkin’s Step Right Up program. Over the course of ten weeks, Bonnie and fellow teaching artist Robin Cannon will work with 5th graders at Project C.O.O.L. to create original productions of theater, dance, music and art. The residency ends on April 27th with an original theatrical production written, produced, and performed by students!
Get Involved, and let’s stay on track to hold on to that momentum through the rest of the year. Help us achieve our goal of serving more children than ever before! Learn more about these and other programs on our Current Programs page, and don’t forget to check our new website that launched in January at www.arts-for-all.org.
- The Arts For All Team
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ~John Dewey
Arts for All regularly provides artistic workshops at Children’s Village Shelter, a sanctuary for runaway and homeless teenagers in Westchester. On October 15th, Melissa Smith taught a Creative Movement Workshop for the teenagers in the shelter. The workshop consisted of physical warm ups with an emphasis on isolations and personal awareness, authentic movement exercises, interpreting photos into movement and words, room writing exercises, a cool down with physical awareness and relaxation, then finally a talkback. They explored moving their bodies in unconventional ways and Melissa encouraged her students to do things they had never done before and to move out of their comfort zones. They were absolutely willing and participated with enthusiasm! The group was also encouraged to talk about positive things they noticed in their peers and to verbalize their personal responses to the exercises. The take-away from the workshop was that if you don’t have paints or pencils to express yourself creatively, your body is your instrument. You always have it with you so take care of it!
A very special thank you to all of those who help make our programs possible! Today I would like to share some very special poetry created by teenagers in an Arts for All program.
Teaching Artist, Bonnie Pipkin, led a two-part performance poetry workshop with two ninth grade ELA classes at The Green School in Brooklyn. In the first session of the program, Bonnie gave her students a series of writing prompts all centered on the idea of home: Homelessness, Dream Homes, Home Away from Home, and Far From Home. Many students took this opportunity to draw from very personal experiences and deep from their hearts. The classroom provided a safe space for the children to share their work without judgment or expectation. The second session of the workshop was held on stage in the auditorium. After a crash course on slam poetry, they broke into groups to prepare their performances using writing from the week before. The class ended with every student participating in a performance. The final, and very special, element of this workshop was that some of their work was performed by professional actors at Arts for All’s third annual Cabaret Benefit Performance, "Home Is Where The Art Is" held at The Kitchen in Manhattan. Following are some of the poems that were shared:
My dream home is to have marble floors
Black leather couches
White fluffy rug in the living room
I want a black puppy with long ears
I want some palm trees to be in my driveway
I want four kids named Jordan, Monica, Israel and Isabella
I want a black navigator, a white Honda and a black and gold Lexus
Home Away From Home
I’m not at home. I feel like there is something missing. Even though I was born here. I miss my REAL home. Where my parents came from. Where my grandparents came from. Where my whole family came from. My true place where I’m from. Where I know I belong. I feel that I don’t belong here. I wasn’t meant to be here. I don’t feel at home. I belong in Dominican Republic. The place I love.
The place I belong
Far From Home
Home is the boss and the boss is at the last level. Gotta beat those enemies or avoid them, but I gotta start from level one and go on every level an beat it. The weird things is, the boss is my friend.
In the crescent moonlight I lay awake in a never-ending field of grass. As I hear the wind scurrying and bursting through the grass, I think of the pain that still lingers in my heart that yearns for something night after night. I could hear the howls of hounds and wolves. I could feel the sadness and agony in their broken cries. I too knew their pain. Aimlessly I traveled across many fields, overcame many challenges to survive. In time I grew more resourceful, my reflexes sharpened but none of these skills matter. I’m in a never-ending mystery until I come across a hill. I climbed and climbed until I could see my little home.
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