Arts For All is committed to providing programs in the summer as well as the school year. This summer, Melissa Smith is on of our Teaching Artists working with New York City youth. She is leading summer AFA workshops at New Alternatives for Children, a center for children living with disabilities, teaching theater skills and preparing the kids for final presentation for family and staff.
What are you up to?
I’ve been doing a theater workshop at New Alternatives for Children for the past 4 weeks. The sessions are 3 hours with a break each week. We are able to work towards a presentation at the end of each session.
What has that been like?
The first few weeks the challenge was to get the group to reveal things about them selves that related to the group, make bold choices and take leadership positions. Some did not even want to share their name on the first day. I have also been working on getting them to release their voice. Literally – in the beginning it was the quietest theater workshop in all of the land.
This past week the new set of challenges were quite the opposite! The group is starting to gel and open up and are clearly having lots of fun, building healthy relationships and self esteem while learning. This week, the challenge is quite different. We are focusing on collaboration in the group. In the last session, every single kid wanted to take the lead, so we worked on giving in the group, not always being in control or being the leader. What a difference from the first class!
Through the games and exercises, they are learning to make negotiations and compromises with their peers and exploring ways to express themselves.
How do you organize your curriculum?
I introduced storytelling the first week and have layered in theater techniques and terms each week as we progress. With very few materials – simple scripts, scarves, and of course their IMAGINATIONS – they have put together some very elaborate and creative stories each week.
What about you? What’s your reaction to seeing all of this?
It’s so fun to see their imaginations take the lead and watch the elaborate stories they build around these simplistic scripts!
Thank you for letting Melissa lead her students at New Alternatives For Children in self-expression through story telling and theater, and thank you for keeping Arts For All thriving in 2012!