Viking Middle School Theatre Philosophy--
(sub-text for our program)
-socialization teacher over artist
-our theatre not content driven but process driven
-experiences over rote memorization
-personal development over career skills
-emphasis on technical theatre involves every type of learner in the process
-move young adolescents along their continuum of development from gofers to stewardship
-encourage every student to experience the bonds that can only be generated by front line battle(production of a live show)
-provide high expectations for yourself and your program
-do something never done with each show
-purchase something for the program with the income from the show
-with each show (or each year) select a technical phase to focus on and make better
1. Young Adolescents Not Children!
fight the urge to have adults take over job responsibilities place the responsibility on their shoulders and lend a hand when they drop it. paper boat philosophy-The folded paper boat is placed on the water and given a tap. It floats out and is sea worthy or it sinks and has to be restarted.
2. Shared responsibility
Never stop preaching the "never work alone" philosophy even when moving things which are very light-- reinforce
3. The process is the product
You must enjoy the trip to Disney World as much as the stay. Measure the distance and make sure all can make the trip.
4. High production values create pride....and the art of theatre
With each production focus on a technical aspect which can be improved upon-- scenery, lighting, front of house(program, publicity, tickets, posters, lobby displays), sound, costumes, props, make-up, pictures
5. The results must be theirs . . . .
In the end, the show that they see must reflect their work not yours. Things not completed by the crew must be left undone. Corrections made by you must be tempered with the non-enabling eye. Not enough time given to the final product or not enough bodies to complete them can only result in some of the things which were planned not being done
The theatre arts curriculum at Viking School is uniquely middle school in structure and instruction. Our primary focus is on the most basic theatre art skills: (1) development of social skills necessary to work cooperatively and (2) development of the young adolescent as a responsible, creative adult. To these ends our curriculum has been built on a philosophy of treating young adolescents as much like adults as their development permits.
This translates into:
A level of immediate mutual respect and basic trust must be the beginning of each show/class. No one has to earn respect in drama. It is an immediate expectation. Those without the social skills necessary to handle this basic level of respect must work on whatever strategies necessary bring themselves under control. This is "Theatre as Discipline". Each student's level of control varies day to day. Each new day they have the opportunity to make adult choices (responsible, sensitive to others, safe, knowledgeable about consequences) or to continue to persist in child choices (irresponsible, insensitive, dangerous, uncaring of consequences). "Adult behavior" requires rehearsal. Most of us continue to practice to this day. Adolescence is the rehearsal time for adult life. Don't let your students rehearse in mistakes which will haunt their performance in their adult life.
Each and every student is given opportunities to handle responsible situations. The more responsible a student is the greater the responsibility. The ability to take on responsibility is looked on as developmental:
A.. Accepting responsibility begins with small responsibilities, e.g. self-control in classroom situations, self-control in audience situations, being respectful of others, bringing the proper materials to class, following simple instructions. These types of tasks are basically single stage in nature. These are the "gofer level" tasks(e.g. primary level responsibilities like, get the hammer, wash out the buckets).
B. As students demonstrate their ability to handle these small responsibilities with greater and greater frequency, they progress along the continuum of responsibility to the next level, multi-part tasks. "Stewardship level" tasks make a student responsible for an outcome after a series of tasks are completed (e.g. lay out these stairs, resize this flat, leg this platform). Successful completion at this level provides the step up to the top end of the responsibility continuum.
C. Crew lead positions on shows which are to be produced for "in school" presentations are the starting point. Successful work here moves the student on to extra curricular shows stamped with the Viking Drama Production label. Only the most responsible students can assume the positions of assistant director, stage manager, or crew lead on a major Viking production.
Each student is given multiple opportunities to work cooperatively with others. Examples of this range from theatre acting exercises and whole class improvisations to large group design projects and monologues/variety shows. Strategies like welcoming smiles, using an individual's name when talking to them, listening skills, tact, and sensitivity are encouraged and rehearsed while group work is in process. Each individual is made aware of the importance of each person to the group.
Viking Drama has a tradition of high standard co-curricular production, We can point with pride at a number of highly successful alumni at the high school level, alumni pursuing theatre arts majors in college and alumni working in the theatre, television, and film industries as adults(track your former students), With these as measures of success community support, and administrative backing have been generated. This sense of pride carries through each and every Viking Production. Cast and crew members take on the mantle of pride as a badge of honor. Successful, critically acclaimed productions, which press the window of expectation for young adolescents, create an extraordinary climate for building self-esteem. The success of each production depends on the many(multitudes). Students are made to understand the synergistic miracle which is theatre art. "Many hands make light work". Never work alone. Successful tasks, one task at a time, build student self-esteem. There is no substitute for a student's ability to view their "task" in the context of a highly acclaimed production.
Play Selection Process
The selection of plays for Viking Drama Production and materials to be used in Viking Drama classes are made by the professional drama teacher/director/ sponsor of the Drama Club. Final choices are available for reading by administration at their request. Any play or classroom material which in the judgment of the director/sponsor may be controversial or which might contain language or situations which draw a level of parental concern will be brought to the attention of the building principal. After consultation and discussion about the selection, its value, and reasoning behind selection with the principal, the principal and director will make the final decision about whether the play will proceed from that point or not. In describing the criteria for selecting plays for middle school production, it is important first to recognize the unique position of the middle school and the developmental growth of young adolescents.
I. Age Appropriate Literature
Middle School Theatre
According to an article entitled, "How Well Are We Addressing Academic Diversity in the Middle School", by Carol Ann Tomlinson, Tonya R. Moon, & Carolyn M. Callahan in the January Ô98 edition of the Middle School Journal, there is general agreement among those who write about middle school that the middle school years are marked by profound physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development, and that learning is impacted by the students' developmental pilgrimages (Manning, 1993; Stevenson, 1992, 1997). Less stable have been interpretations of how the developmental changes should sculpt our images of middle schoolers." While we are willing to accept that middle school students learn from their experiences, some views of middle school students have restricted our ability to provide the very experiences which will provide their growth.
"Not surprisingly, teachers of these learners have been cautioned to plan small, using small assignments, small lectures, and small homework (Doda, George, &McEwin, 1987) Thus middle schools have sometimes focused on providing nurturing environments to protect young adolescents rather than creating environments that support high levels of learning (Kanthak, 1995)."
More recently, middle school writers have sketched more optimistic profiles of young adolescents as caring, deriving self-esteem from hard work (Stevenson, 1991), intellectually aware, capable of critical self-reflection (Arnold, 1993), curious about the world around them, and exercising a sense of humor. (National Middle School Association, 1995)." Our mission has always been clearly on the cutting edge of middle school education. Long before the more recent writers referred to above, Viking has focused on the developing adolescent. Many of our educators have understood implicitly the concepts of providing developmental pilgrimages for our adolescents to learn. The drama program is the leader of this quest.
With this mission in mind, all books, plays, poetry, audio/visual materials should be gauged with the same ruler. Middle school is not the time to shelter students from knowledge of the evils of the world. It is a time to look at the evils, evaluate the dangers they present and to provide thoughtful, reasoned opposition to their practices. Each year of the middle school process should provide more opportunity to explore the reality which will become their adult lives. As an educational organization we support the First Amendment rights of middle school students. We oppose any censorship that silences the expression of ideas or that may seek to impose boundaries on the world of dramatic literature.
*Middle school theatre must challenge the young adolescent to move forward towards responsible, reasonable adulthood. Plays whose adult characters must be portrayed in intense physical or emotional situations well beyond the experience of the young adolescent should be avoided. Strong language which is an integral part of the creation of such characters should be a clear restricting factor. Situations such as child abuse, drug use, gang violence, drinking, teen pregnancy, premarital sex and any other issue which confronts the young adolescent of today should not be avoided but should be considered of a controversial nature. Plays dealing with these issues should be approached with care and with the support of the administration of the school. The community standards for such issues may very well be restrictive and sheltering. This should not prevent the production of literature which raises the consciousness of the community to these issues and their presence in the adolescent world.
The following additional criteria for play selection are used:
II. Talent Pool
The talent levels of the student body must be capable of supporting the literature both by physical type and talent depth. Plays which have large numbers of "adult" roles cannot be done with a degree of seriousness without cast members whose physical development permits the audience some degree of believability. Conversely, "child" characters must be paid the same consideration. It is not only physical development which restricts characters for middle school students but also experiences and situations. These are fine lines. See issues under age appropriate above.
III. Variety in Programming
Plays are selected with an awareness of the shows which have preceded them. A season is put together with an attempt to include a variety of theatre pieces for the community. A children's fairy tale musical rotates with an adolescent problem musical, musical melodrama or an oriental style fable and the following year a popular Broadway selection might be presented. A wide variety of types of shows are presented to provide the community with opportunities for growth along with providing ever expanding opportunities for young adolescents to grow in their understanding of themselves, the theatre, and the world around them. Children's shows provide an added opportunity to experience.
IV. Medium as the Message
Theatre as a medium of expression is a primary objective of our program. Our information giving to the community to as important a criteria as is entertainment. Plays with literary merit are an important contribution to the stature of the program because of our refusal to play down to our actors or our audiences. Our production process includes time for play analysis, playwright discussion, theme and character study. While these topics are discussed the ensemble grows to an understanding of the creative process and how the understanding of the work must translate into body movement, vocal technique choices, as well as technical design considerations.
V. Technical Expertise
Productions should be measured against the technical expertise of the staff, and the number of students available to help construct the desired product. Designs should always be realistic in that they take into account the budget, the construction skills of the labor force, available stock while always keeping an eye towards the growth of the program and new experiences for the technical staff and crews. Adult supervision should not over-ride the responsibilities taken on by student leaders. This is critical to the continuation of the program. The older students mentoring the young students in the proper techniques of construction, pride in their work, and the high standards dictated by the tradition of the program.
The size of a production budget must also should be considered in play selection. A show like Peter Pan which requires professionally handled flying should not be considered if the budget available does not allow for the $3,000 flying bill.