As citizens of a rural community in a Title I school, my students’ extracurricular opportunities to learn are often limited. However, in our classroom, each day is a journey together, and each journey is rife with opportunities to learn—to learn a new skill, a new word, a new character, a new lesson, a new mindset, a new respect.
Despite the barriers imposed by poverty, my students have the potential to succeed—to defy stereotypes—if they see themselves as the authors of their own life scripts.
As John Milton said in his epic poem Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place.” The vast majority of my students have never been the three hours east to the beach or the three hours west to the mountains. Such narrow views often limit future visions, especially for teens. However, the genre of drama opens new worlds for my students as their minds awaken when the stage light turns on.
My students visit YouTube, Netflix, and the like to indulge in the power of the visual arts. Theatre for Title I Teens plays off their interests with the story by engaging learners with reading, creating, performing and recording their own works. Theatre can change students’ lives as they come to embrace this portion of academia as a valuable avenue toward self-actualization.
“I want to be Macbeth … I want to be Lady Macbeth!” My reluctant learners suddenly become eager readers when a Shakespearean play is our content.
My students much prefer literature that is “alive” rather than prose or poetry, so they find the genre of drama much more engaging. The drama-based unit will help me create a classroom environment where my students recognize themselves as persons in the universal play. Two of my colleagues and I have begun a drama club at school this year, and we are excited to awaken the stage at our school.
My culminating goal for this drama unit is to give students in our club an experience that they likely will never have. After a thorough exploration with reading Shakespeare, writing scripts and even performing these works, Expanding Experiences: Theatre for Title I Teens seeks to grant 45 teenagers a Friday night journey to the Durham Performing Arts Center to see the Broadway production, Les Miserables. This project is for half of the cost for 45 students. We have planned a school fundraiser to cover the rest.
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