Saturday marked the finale of my drama class at R.L. Education in Richmond. Since January, we have been building an original play generated directly from the imaginations of 6-9 year olds and written to reflect their needs as emerging writers, actors and English speakers. Most students are recent immigrants to Canada and their mother tongue is Chinese.
They varied in age and ability to read, write and communicate. Some were exceedingly shy, others needed to practice collaboration, awareness and control, but the environment was such that they all felt like equals in a safe, playful and creative space.
Our experience together was transformational. They challenged me to keep them engaged while teaching the basics of performance: extension, expression, levels, volume, emotion, eye contact, intention and control.
On our first day, the students wanted to be knights and princesses, so we played with how these characters would walk and talk and what they would want. We created two different kingdoms, the Lava and Water Kingdom and the Golden Kingdom. Fuelled by their interest in knights and damsels, we built a story around a conflict between them. All students chose their characters and essentially ‘wrote’ their own parts. From the outside, as dramaturge, I pulled their ideas together into a story with action, conflict and dialogue.
Magic happened almost every week through the simple process of play. One day the students found a balloon that someone had left behind and began an impromptu game of ‘Boom Ball’ that we incorporated as one of the challenges between the two kingdoms.
To help them develop language skills, one of the challenges was for them to find words to describe a ‘royal’ object. They chose, of course, a crown. The final ‘battle’ featured a recitation, where students did some choral/dramatic speaking and recited, the famed poem, “Alligator Pie”, selected by them.
We spent some time building and painting props and costumes, rehearsed a bit and it was ‘Places please…’ I thought the students did an exceptional job. The shy became less shy, the loud became less loud and more expressive, we worked as a team and created a beautiful work of art, a play that teaches as well as entertains. I look forward to the next set of sessions where we continue to develop confidence and creativity through drama at R. L. Education.