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What is the best age to start a child in Drama classes? When they are toddlers or more mature age such as 13?

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Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers


Dear Carol -- this is the High School where I came from in Brooklyn, New York... (Class of 1966... :-)

As you can read, we are still one of the best public high schools in the country...and totally urban and crowded with 4,000 students on Triple Session classes, (even back when I went there 40+ years ago :-)

AND we have "SING" every year now since 1947: One Brave Creative Teacher like yourself made it Happen!
Ms. Bella Tillis started it with "$10 and student-energy: Here go make it happen!" and we did, and it keeps going, and it is now spread throughout the NYC public high school system with those schools lucky enough to have a Dedicated Teacher to supervise it...

This is from Wikipedia, about Midwood HS "SING":
" SING!SING!, an annual student-run musical theater competition first by the Midood high schools in New York City, was started by Bella Tillis, a music teacher at Midwood, in 1947.[7][8] It is still being produced at Midwood. It's also a tradition for many New York City High School seniors, juniors, and "so-fresh" (freshmen and sophomores working together) against each other in a race to put on the best performance. The 1989 movie Sing, which starred Lorraine Bracco, was based on SING!. SING has been responsible for hours of dedication and hard work, as well as fierce competition, among New York City's high school students.

In the summer of 2004, the film The Squid and the Whale filmed in Midwood High School's auditorium, using students from the school's Drama Club as extra seat fillers, in 80s style costumes. The production also used background scenes on the stage that had been painted for the Drama Club's production of Bye Bye Birdie two months prior. The film production crew also enlisted the help of a former Drama Club and SING! lighting manager to help them light the stage for the scene."

So what I'm going to do now is contact my Best Friend in the World,
Richard Sacks, my classmate from Midwood HS, who had the guts as a Senior in 1966 to take on the job of Coaching the Junior Class in SING
that year, and BEAT our Senior Class!!!

We still jive him about that frequently at our Midwood_66 Yahoo Group,
which is our continuing Lifeline of Friendship with about 60 or so still active members and Classmates for Life... :-)

So I am going to get some more facts and organizational information from him on how the student-run program continues to "Fill the Auditorium with SING and JOY" produced by teenagers for teenagers and their families and friends and community ever year going...

to be continued...ON STAGE... :-)

ps: Marisa Tomei is one of our graduates (chums with my sister :-) and the notorious and funny "Woody Allen", (who was not a "well-adjusted academic student", as you might have guessed) cut class alot to write jokes for the Steve Allen Show etc.

Plain Old "Allen" :-)

Allen Berg, born in 1949... :-)
and here at our Edutopia... :-)


Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

[quote]Mr. Yee:

I think that babies/children/all of us partake in drama by imitation. That is the greatest form of theatre. When a baby is only 2-3 months old they begin to imitate their primary caretaker, often mom, and what fun memories I have of making facial expressions and primary sounds with my precious babies, now 29 and 33. The dance continues through reading stories on laps, and imaginary play, trips to the zoo, puppet shows, building sand castles, the list of wonder goes on for life. Even through the tragedy of life's circumstances we imagine how terrible it may be and what can we do to make other people's pain feel better.

Drama begins the moment we are conceived. Without the arts, there would be no life. I agree, it never begins as a written script. I believe it is the gifted writer who is able to "see" that moment and put that on paper and create life to a moment in time. MAGIC.

That's my experience...[/quote]

Thanks Carol for the insight! I really appreciate it. I'm learning as we are posting. =)

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

super inspiration!! Thank you.

Great story. Amazing school with a teacher who filled your life daily with magic....a fabulous story that should be required to know and memorize if you run for Congress or Senate in the USA....

I find that in school theatre it is not ONLY what I have learned in my life on stage and in the books/classroom, but it is really WHO YOU KNOW TO MAKE THE WHOLE BAGEL AND LOX AND CC COME TOGETHER!!

I directed and produced shows in New Rochelle. I had many great contacts in NYC, the Bronx and NR. I had no problems and headaches other than the normal drama problems with backstage parents, headstrong teens, and the expected problems with artistic people who are the most interesting people to work with in the world. (these are the people who taught me every day about being alive and creative and love and pain and laughter).

Now, back in Calif, I have NO contacts and am trying to find PEOPLE to get the show on the road. With all the art cuts and the few people who have had rare and wonderful educational experiences with the arts, it is more difficult that I ever expected.

My mother was right. I should have never stopped those piano lessons. My father was right. Pick up a trade like electricity.
My Bubby was right. Learn to sew.
I should have gone to electronic school. I need music and lighting and
gorgeous costumes.

Oiy veh.

Listen to your parents.
Woody Allen is one of a kind, I quote him in class and bright children smile....they get it.....I wish I could show his films.....

Are writers like Allen born, or was a teacher involved in that great comedy, sarcastic wit, or did he hear it at the dinner table, or all three?

I would love to hear Edutopian's views on creating comedic writers, gifted screen writers, gifted play writers.

Finally, tell the adorable Miss Tomei "my biological clock" was repeated by my daughter perfectly from age 8-20! Best movie eva, but cannot show to my talented teens.

Thanks for all of your fabulous comments. You are all great reading and conversation!

Renee Petersen's picture
Renee Petersen
Co-curricular technical theatre teacher, reading endorsement in process

Theatre is tailor made for teaching. I work with students from preK-adult using theatre as a tool for teaching the legally mandated lessons. I always have large pieces of fabric for props or costumes, some hats, glasses, wigs and small assorted musical instruments for role playing, dress up or just to transform a space into somewhere else. Theatre is the best way to hit everyone's learning style. I'm amazed theatre isn't utilised more often as it can be so cheap yet so meaningful.

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear Carol -- The Director:

I used to live in California (30 years...) but I am now a resident of "Affordable Housing" Florida...
So I apologize that I probably won't be in attendance for your students' production, but I would like to contribute some quick and easy Online Visual Resources for you... to make your job easier and more fun...

1. Google Search has menu tabs on the top left of their homepage
(perhaps you already know this...) and I clicked on "Images" (one of my favorite pastimes) and then typed in the following variations in the search box:
Midsummer Night's Dream
Midsummer Night's Dream Characters
Midsummer night's Dream Costumes

This will solve your Scenery questions, your Costume questions,
etc. AND will help you decide on
"What type of 'context' you want to wrap-around your presentation..."

From what you already described in your postings here, it seems like you are going for the "woodsy fantasy" style, which is a natural choice for this play... If however, you have decided otherwise and other ways to 'present' the play that is fine as well...

The Google Image Searches will provide you with Everything you need to design and set and costume your production...

For me to be of further assistance, which would be my Theater Pleasure... please let me know more about the "space" you have to work with...

Is it a Cafeteria-style "Multi-Purpose" Room...?
A Gymnasium set-up with 'stadium-seating'...?
A real Proscenium Theater in an Auditorium...?

Then I can better "Visualize" the Production Aspects you will be dealing with...

To be continued anon...

Allen: The Prince of Bagels

Katie Bess's picture

The first time a child understands the concept of "pretending" they are ready to be introduced to drama. The younger the age, the better. When a child is introduced to the idea of being in front of a large group of people and all eyes on them, it will pull them out of their shell and help them to become a more outgoing individual in their later years.

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

I read you all to "get my groove back" because I do not get much sup port, but realize many adults never had the opportunity to take the arts and be a part of the wonderful opportunities outside the world of the classroom and the textbooks. My cast gives me so much energy. They are my gift, they are a gift to the staff and the school staff and the district and few people understand this. Imagine 12 and 13 year olds giving beauty,comedic and intelligent art the gift of themselves around a world of gangs and many social problems. But, they see what few others recognize. Shakespeare never dreamed that Puck would be an energetic girl and Titania would be so tall and beautiful and her husband would be so short and funny. Mostly, Bottom would be so Chaplinesque without trying. He just happens to be a funny kid with a great sense of timing and interpretation of the script. All of them carry around the script and study whenever they can. None of them have ever been in a play. All of them are fun to be with just your "average everyday student," who has been struck with that love of theatre. I have been struck by their "passion for acting." What teacher could not get up and go to work everyday under conditions like this?

We are in our last weeks of rehearsals. Most have the entire script memorized. I have vintage costumes rented, there are no sets, it is student centered in the round. I have sound effects i.e. a beating heart, birds singing, a lot of classic music and I even have a FOOD TRUCK coming to sell food, yummmy!

Thank you for all of your support. I still do not know how we can sell the arts to future generation of teachers, unless we require more arts in HS and college and teacher education, but this wave of cutting the arts, and the lack of funds here in LA to take my classes to the GETTY any longer (and some lack of support from my staff) has continued to created more and more ignorance of the vital importance of art in our lives.

Not being paid for this is not the issue. But, not having the money to pay for the lights, sound and costumes is the real issue. Fund raisers selling candy do not cut it. Where are the donations. Worse are the negative comments.But, thankfully my principal supports arts and music. A school without the arts is like a fish on a bicycle...not my quote.

However, I am amazed at the fabulous students and their energy and passion for the arts. I know that it effects their ability in all the other curriculum forever and builds their self esteem. Mostly, we are having the time of our lives.

Thank you Mr Lucas for creating this place for teachers to share what we all do. Selling tickets to our student body has been interesting. It is a learning experience to teach children to be an audience in a live theatre. That brings up another issue: Live theatre in Los Angeles, very expensive and not very many. It would be wonderful to send your scout to see the wonder of teen talent. Not for a movie but for a workshop in Theatre to children and teachers. In this economy nothing is more greatly needed than to be able to create situations that we live in and to create more. To have people like you lead workshops!

What a gift it would be to have creative workshops in Title One schools with the best of the best. How can I continue to give more to my actors here in Southern Cal with so many talented people right at our doorstep and no money for busses or money for people to visit us?
Thank you for listening.

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

All last week during our Spring Break we had our Tech Week. It was a typical HELL WEEK. Costumes were challenging and it was difficult to get the sound and lights up and running.

The actors were mostly prepared with some still on script. Some were very afraid and asked to wear masks. I said yes, since they are playing fairy's and after all, they are in 7th grade. There is always drama in the drama club, and a love romance went stale, and hearts were broken and one tech tried to quit. I spent time and gathered my patience explained the advantage of the long term effects of staying with the show and being strong, in spite of the internal and personal crisis. Drama teachers automatically are counselors, aren't we!

In general we are all energetic and drained. I still need 2 more weeks to put more finishing touches on the show, and teach just a bit more of the beauty of "The Midsummer Night's Dream" but I have learned there is never enough time for the arts. Some of the actors are very strong and outstanding and it is always amazing how their talent shines. It is obvious who will steal the show. I wish I could pass the talent around equally. Even more I wish I could offer the course to every child on campus. They all deserve what they do not know is so vital to their lives.

The next 3 days I hope we get a full run through. My principal has closed off the cafeteria which will become a theatre-in-the-round, where we will hopefully educate and entertain our community. This is the first time I have directed/produced Shakespeare in myh 30 years as a Drama teacher. Funny, and none of my students have ever seen a live
production. They are very motivated and excited. Some problems with learning responsibility coming to rehearsal and learning lines, but in general they really and truly are an AWESOME group of JR HIGH children who will make this an unbelievable production! Wish you could all be there. Priceless moments on stage!!

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Go for it!

You are making Drama History in the World! Their World and Ours...
Share with us during and after the Show...

Just curious if there is any capable adult around with a video camera
(fellow teacher, parent, etc.? even a cell phone camera would work...
it doesn't have to be 'professional-looking'...
"A picture is worth... many smiles..."

And then you will have "Documentary Proof" of "Magical Education"...
which could lead to a Grant for your next production...

or at least I could make a donation and pass the hat...

You know I am a Chaucerian "Purrfect Gentyl Knyghte"

"Whan that Aprille wyth hise shoures soote...
and bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendered
is the flour...
Whan Zephirus eek with hise swete breeth
inspired hath then a Showe to seeke
in every skool in come yet Maye...
So with stoodents cours yronne
with open eyes see and doo
for all to maken Melodye
Fore Spring is sprung and Childrenne ronne
to be and be becomme Happye
in all theyre kindes of prance and funne...
They will syng 'n Sonne and flye 'n Skye
what magicke doo and magicke donne...

Knyghte of Courtesie

leon van dyke's picture
leon van dyke
university theatre teacher department chair and director

If we pay attention to what they seem to need or want, we can't go wrong. Posting to join group, not because I believe I'm offering anything particularly profound. I do think their words rather than learned words prior to age twelve, maybe.

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