Home / Artists In Schools / Tam Students WRITE, DIRECT & PERFORM

Something exciting is happening in Mill Valley! Students at Tamalpais High School are collaborating to write, direct, produce and perform their own play for the school’s Winter One Act Play Festival in January 2012.
Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs is leading this joint effort between students from Mr. Lovejoy’s Marin County Office of Education (MCOE) Special Ed class and the school’s excellent Conservatory Theatre Ensemble (CTE). This arts integration program is the first of its kind in the district, created as part of YIA’s Arts Unite Us program, which aims to bridge gaps between students of differing abilities. Michael Lovejoy and Ben Cleaveland of CTE are incredibly supportive and talented educators, so no wonder students have been such a joy to work with. Just wait until you see what Allison, Becky, Glyn, Jake, Maribel, Monica and Tevin are creating!
The goal of this integrated approach to playmaking is to create an excellent piece of theatre that is process-focused, brings students of differing abilities together, and fosters self-expression and confidence.
Students first met in October. Early classes focused on the elements of theatre with an emphasis on acting and playwriting. The young theatre artists from different departments and of different abilities bonded quickly. The process of creating a theatre piece together then proceeded with intense brainstorming sessions. The young theatre artists documented their discoveries on giant pads of paper with markers to track their creative discussions. They used stickers to vote for and highlight the most important ideas. You can see some examples of their work below.

Brainstorming dramatic themes

Brainstorming play ideas

In November, the play itself emerged from all the brainstorming ideas and playwriting began in earnest – from time and place to character profiles, stage directions and dialogue. Students dived in deep to explore character development, conflict, metaphor, central dramatic theme, deus ex machina and resolution among other theatrical components of playwriting.
Students often broke off into groups of two, working as partners on detailed character development and monologues.

Playwrights collaborate at Tam High School

Tevin and Mentor Artist Melissa note a plot development

Playwriting together

Maribel and Allison collaborate

Allison and Maribel present their ideas

Glyn and Tevin discuss a character

Glyn and Tevin discuss a character

Playwright Monica makes an observation

Jake adds to a character profile with Monica

Once the script was completed, Her Face to the Sky (PDF) went immediately into rehearsal!  Junior CTE student Glyn took on the role of Director and worked with her castmates and Melissa to block and rehearse the play in December.  The script finds a group of strangers (tourists and locals) mid-span on the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset just moments before a devastating earthquake forces them to work together to get to save a particularly vulnerable young woman, Grace, and each other.

An early table read is an exciting step in the rehearsal process

Tevin rehearses a monologue with Melissa

Allison and Maribel rehearse a mother/daughter scene

Later in December, YIA Mentor Artist Donna Ozawa joined in to support the production with Stagecraft lessons for Mr. Lovejoy’s whole class. All props and set pieces are student designed and created with Donna’s guidance!

Artist Donna and Jake secure hinges on a prop phone

Jake, Becky and Tevin show off a set piece

Director Glyn & Tevin with props

Director Glyn & Tevin with props

MCOE Speech Language Pathologist Sophie Miles volunteered her expertise by creating an iPad application with the students recorded voices and rehearsal photos to help them learn their lines and prepare for performance.

Sophie's iPad rehearsal with Jake and Tevin

Tam High’s renowned One Act Play Festival is entirely student produced and will provide a fantastic showcase for the work of this dedicated integrated group of young theatre artists. Please join us on Thursday January 12th or 19th at 7PM, Tam High’s Caldwell Theatre, 700 Miller Avenue (near the back parking lot) Mill Valley, CA.  Box office opens at 6:30PM and advance tickets are available online as well.

A CTE poster for the event

Youth in Arts is dedicated to serving youth of all abilities with high quality arts programming.  We created the Arts Unite Us program with seed funds from the Special Hope Foundation, and this project at Tam High has been supported by grants from the Green Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation. We are grateful for their generous support.  For more information on how you can support this type of programming, visit our support page, or visit our store at 917  C St. in downtown San Rafael.

Showing 5 comments
  • Brooke

    This is amazing work Melissa and Donna, I hope to be there!

  • Greg Nudd

    Really cool, Melissa and Donna! Thanks for your great work. Jake is so excited.

  • Linda Haynes

    Exciting work Melissa, Donna and Sophie.
    A big congrats too, to Jake, Allison, Becky, Glyn, Maribel, Monica and Tevin!

  • Melissa Briggs

    Thanks Mr. Nudd! Jake is so much fun to work with. His energy and enthusiasm is infectious and his contributions to the process have been impressive.

  • Kay Kostopoulos

    Melissa Briggs is brilliant! I have worked with her for years at Stanford, and continue to be amazed by her innovations in education and theatre. We need more programs like this in our schools. I hope to see an expansion of her work throughout the system. Congratulations, Melissa!

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