On my first day at Canal Alliance, I introduced myself and Devised Theatre – to the 8th grade students. A few hands shot up with fear consuming their faces. “Wait. We HAVE to perform?” I assured the class that by the time the 10 week residency was completed, they would feel ready and excited to perform. I could see in their faces they were uncertain. None of the students had ever performed live or had any experience with theatre. They were terrified at the thought of having to perform.
The students excelled at “table work.” Anytime we were writing or having discussions about issues or social justice, they were engaged.
I created a plan to best support my students where they are at. Instead of creating an issues-based live performance, we created short films. The films showcase each student performing a monologue on an issue. Students selected images to go with their monologue. This format gave students the freedom to express themselves and create art, while still operating in a safe space. Their films turned out beautifully and they were so proud of what they created.
We were able to show the finished film to friends, family and fellow students at the Canal Alliance’s Winter Potluck on December 15th. It was wonderful to showcase what the students had learned, and contributed to in our 10 week residency.
These kids taught me that flexibility is an asset. Rigidity breeds rigidity. I chose to listen to my students, recalibrate, and create something beautiful with them.