Mentor Artist Thomas Arndt reports on his theater residency this Spring at Cornell Elementary in Albany.
Youth in Arts new program at Cornell Elementary resulted in 8 story adaptions performed by 2nd and 3rd Grade students in just 8 weeks!
Weekly classes with the 2nd and 3rd Graders covered the basics of acting skills and then quickly plugged those skills into fun and challenging plays put on by the whole class. We worked on creating Stage Pictures, showing emotion with the body, movement and most of all STRONG, CLEAR VOICES! All of the students really loved the Vocal Resonator warm-up, which I learned from my teaching artist friend Mariah Castle a couple of years ago, which was a great way to balance big, wild expression with complete focus. I watched as the groups got stronger each week as ensembles and as every single individual grew as a performer.
In the 2nd Grade, we had “The Little Monkey and the Garbanzo Bean” from Cuba, “Anansi and the Strange Moss-Covered Rock” from West Africa, “Zomo the Rabbit” from Nigeria, and “NO DINNER!” from Southeast Asia. The 2nd Graders really impressed me with remembering where to be at all times and by staying in their characters throughout each performance.
The 3rd Graders had the challenge of doing curriculum-based Civil Rights plays which dealt with serious matters. They did an excellent job of enjoying the process while bringing maturity to the hardships that African-Americans faced in these stories. We performed “Martin’s Big Words,” “Ruby Bridges,” “I Am Rosa Parks,” and “Richard Wright and the Library Card.” These were all adapted from children’s books.
After each performance, we had a “Talk-Back” session with the audience (each show had family members and another Cornell class visiting us). The audience gave appreciations, and in every single session we hear how impressed they were by the loud, clear voices on-stage. I believe that whether or not these students go on to be actors, learning to speak in front of a crowd with confidence is an incredibly important skill. They also spoke to learning a lot of history from the shows and many audience members said that they were able to feel what it was like for people in the Civil Rights Era. We talked about this being the power of theater- that it’s not just facts, it is emotions. Many of the actors reported feeling nervous before the show and proud and happy after the show, especially upon hearing the responses from the audience. One actor said she felt it was “respectful” to hear such praise.
We are so excited to be at Cornell, creating a new, powerful theater program that we hope will continue for many years! Thank you to the amazing teachers, parents, families and kids!
Spring is bouncing into summer and hundreds of young artists around the North Bay are finishing class projects and creating exhibits, performances and other artful events for family and friends with Youth in Arts.
Recent posts have highlighted Spring projects by K-Dub Williams’ students at Marina Middle School and Angela Baker’s students at Harding Elementary, in addition to the amazing work created by Suzanne Joyal’s kindergarteners at Loma Verde as part of the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program. Youth in Arts also produced a special “Passport Art Event” at Harding, and Nydia Gonzalez and Shawna Alapa’i concluding performing arts residencies at Ocean View Elementary in Albany and Sonoma Mountain Elementary.
In late May, Arts Unite Us “collaborative residency” projects at Harding and at Tam High School in Mill Valley wrapped up with terrific performances by all the students. Collaborative residencies bring together special education and general education students for shared arts experiences. At Harding, students wrote, directed and performed an original play “Lydia and the Land of Gee-Jo” around themes of Pollution, Bullying, Self Acceptance, New Beauty Standards and Taking Care of Each Other. At Tam High , the original pilot site for the collaborative residency program, students from the Special Day Class and advanced Conservatory Theatre Ensemble worked with Mentor Artists Suraya Keating and Melissa Briggs to write and perform their original play, “By my Side,” which opened the school’s popular One Acts Festival.
Tommy Shepherd’s students at Wade Thomas put an exclamation mark on their rap and beatboxing residency with a performance of their original rap for their peers at school, and Kaitlin McGaw’s kindergarteners at Bahia Vista will soon perform a vocal music and hip hop show for their fourth grade buddies.
At Laurel Dell in San Rafael, Djenane Saint-Juste has been teaching students Caribbean dance around the theme of Kanaval (Carnivale), using costume pieces the students created this Fall with visual artist Gabby Gamboa. The students will perform in a grand parade with family and friends at the school’s big Fiesta del Sol event this weekend. And at Mary Silveira, Mentor Artist Julia James finished a successful year with a big art show featuring work by all her K-4 students in the program.
Youth in Arts award-winning `Til Dawn a cappella ensemble performed their annual Spring Concert at San
Domenico Hall of the Arts this past weekend–a big congratulations to all the performers for a wonderful show and a special shout out to our graduating seniors. We will miss you!
Also at San Domenico, Youth in Arts workshopped a new performance of “Goodnight Gorilla” on May 23 with music by Dee Spencer performed by a terrific band of Bay Area music educators and musicians who are working with us to develop the work into an educational performance piece for youth jazz bands.
You can see it’s been a very busy Spring, full of fabulous art and fabulous young artists. Watch this blog for more detailed reports on many of these projects in the weeks ahead and get ready to celebrate summer with Youth in Arts! Come see `Til Dawn at Youth in Arts night with the Pacifics, visit our Everything Under the Sun YIA Gallery exhibit, sign up for a unique summer camp program, check out the Mountain Play and benefit Youth in Arts with your ticket purchase, or join us for our gala Summer Solstice celebration at Studio 333 on June 21. We’d love to see you in person and share our work with you. Happy summer!