Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a class here at the Prevention Center made up of nine youth. I came on behalf of the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), and together, with the help of my colleague, Curriculum and Programs Manager Jasmin Hoo, we played an array of theater games meant to enhance imagination and group work.
We all started out in a circle, where we had to play a name game to encourage students to be silly and have fun. That game morphed into the passing of a magic sound ball forcing people to be physical and make loud noises. One of the biggest barriers when people first start doing theater is fear — at all ages. The great thing about working with kids, is that they tend to have less inhibitions than adults. This particular group of students were extremely energetic and eager to participate!
The focus of this particular class was to develop character work. These students were already familiar with a certain level of character development, as they have been writing two different scripts that reflect stories they want to share with others. Our goal was to show them that no matter who they play in those stories, each character is uniquely different.
As part of that character work, we practiced walking around the room as different people: kings, queens, grandmas / grandpas, and little kids. That eventually morphed into a runway show, where the students got to choose any character they wanted to be, using props and costumes to create a fun and specific person. The runway show was wild, loud, and fun. We ended the class by developing three completely new and devised stories that the kids made up themselves. They were split into three different groups and encouraged to use the characters they created in the runway show to tackle a specific conflict, like an incoming tsunami on a beach day, melting ice on a skating rink, and a loose tiger at the zoo. One of those stories involved a beach bum, venus fly trap, and a Russian grandma. They were completely wacky and brilliant!
I’m so impressed by the creativity in this class and truly believe that they are all artists with amazing ideas to share with the world. They proved to me that theater continues to build rich connections, empathy and understanding among people.
A.C.T. is a professional theater that not only showcases classical and contemporary plays, but also trains an array of students of all ages in various aspects of theater. I’m currently a second-year student at the MFA program studying with the A.C.T. The program exposes us to a wide array of acting disciplines and professional work. Most importantly, though, the program teaches us what drama means to the life of a community. We believe that theater enriches communities, and in return, communities enrich theater. Our time with the kids at Prevention Center was a testament to just that. This is an exciting new partnership, and we can’t wait to come back!