Monday, April 6, 2015

Aladdin and the Jinn

Lately I have had a lot of posts about writing. But what happens when thirty teenagers are asked to write an original play? The most challenging thing I've attempted at my job as a high school theatre teacher was to try just this feat.

I came to school in August, and told the kids I wanted them to put on an ensemble show. They'd work together to create an original script, and would all perform in it. The students voted to adopt the story of Aladdin, using an aesthetic of Israel and Palestine.

The show was a struggle to mount. Students had conflicting opinions on the direction of the story, the types of characters, or the overall plot. As an author, it's solely up to me to decide what my characters do and how the plots unfold. To have thirty teens arguing over this was no easy task.

I gave the kids projects, including writing short scenes, monologues, music (non-verbal) scene work, and slam poetry. Many of these elements ended up becoming part of the final process. We worked with a professional choreographer from a local theatre to develop new movement techniques, and with a professor from George Washington University to research the political issues.

Then the hurdles hit... ten missed rehearsals for snow/weather. Eleven students deciding two weeks before the show that they'd rather fail the class than be in the performance, and seven kids kicked out of Tech (backstage theatre) for pot (out of ten kids total in Tech).  Plus, we got a new space- a huge abandoned tech room which is the new drama room, and we're converting into a blackbox theatre. It's exciting, but we moved into the space exactly one week before the show opened!

Despite the hurdles, the show was an overall success.  Audiences enjoyed seeing the student's dark take on an otherwise light fairy tale, and were very impressed by how the show worked as a cohesive piece. Two alumns of Roosevelt drama each said it was one of the more ambitious and impressive shows they'd seen at the school.

And now it's spring break, and I am relieved to be writing alone- not thirty voices arguing, but just my own voice going to the page...

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