Guest contributor–Maggie Ward, NDP Drama Teacher
The Ellen Norton Cullen Library Week has been around for as long as I can remember, and since I have been teaching here at NDP for more than 30 years, that’s a very long time!! Years ago Library Week featured prom makeovers, raffles, and guest speakers. More recently, one of my favorite parts of the week is the performance by the Drama Class.
It began with a casual invitation from Ellen Cullen, NDP’s former librarian, who asked me if my students might like to perform in the library during this special week. Since we often work on monologues in class, it seemed like a good idea, and it was! Students had an opportunity to perform pieces that had been honed to a semblance of perfection in class. Prior, we missed the opportunity to collaborate to move a work from concept to fruition, to form a character, and to take the risks involved in live performance with a community of peers.
About six years ago we made the change. The students and I would select a one-act play, cast, and rehearse it during class and then perform it. It has turned out to be a fun and exciting way to introduce students who may not have the time to commit to an after-school production because of spring or fall sports. Better yet, we perform for a “friendly” audience. Our invited audience consists of students who are free during the time period, as well as those classes who have convinced to bring their teachers to bring them to the library for the performance. Who doesn’t enjoy a good comedy instead of having a normal class? This year’s play is Ten Reasons You Should Have Stayed Home Sick Today by E.M. Bell, and the students are eager to perform.
According to a frequently cited study of almost a quarter million students by UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Dr. James Catterall, students who participate in the arts don’t just do better in school, they perform in areas that drive success outside the classroom. “Children active in the arts demonstrate higher academic performance and standardized test scores. They are more likely to participate in community service and be elected to class office. And they are more inclined to participate in a math and science fairs and be recognized for academic achievement. Those are just some of the concrete findings.” In my experience theater kids are more confident and better prepared to engage in all aspects of presentation, a skill necessary in every class these days.
Our faculty has had extensive professional development on what the Common Core calls “21st-Century Skills,” those skills that the very best educational minds believe will be essential to the success of our students in the future. Ironically, they are skills that we have been doing in theater for years. Creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, communication and real-world challenges are woven into the very fabric of any theater experience. Practicing these skills is what we do whenever we move a project from the page to the stage. While these benefits are real and measurable, the very best reason for doing theater is that it is FUN, and the memories that kids make will last for years!
I am proud of the wonderful work that has been done this year in theater at NDP. From the Maryland high school debut of Sister Act in November to our formidable Middle Level production of Peter Pan Jr. in February to our first-ever spring musical, Emma! A Pop Musical before Easter to the work of our theater class this Library Week, NDP theatre students rock! It has been a great pleasure for me and all of your directors to be a part of it! What a great way to celebrate!
Take a look at some of our work…