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The Magic of Ensemble – By Hannah Gavagan

Every now and then as a teaching artist you find yourself with a really special class. The Harding After-School Playwright Program was an absolute joy to teach. They learned story structure and created original scripts. They learned the basics of directing. They strengthened the acting skills they learned through the in-school program. But the fairy dust that sprinkled over this group was the ensemble they created.

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Their team was strong in every sense of the word. They collaborated. They listened to each other. They helped each other through their mistakes. They believed in each other. When these students gave away their original short plays to an audience my heart filled with pride and gratitude. Because a truly amazing class teaches the teacher. These 5th and 6th graders taught me to be a bit more silly. To let go a little bit more of perfection. To support each other unconditionally.

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There was one student in the class who needed a little extra support.  He didn’t want to perform or write a play, but my goodness could he draw. So, to invite his skills through the process that everyone went through, he created a story-board about UFOs. To say it was incredible would be an understatement. I planned to show his story-board over a projector during the short play festival. But when we got to the school that evening, the projector I reserved was broken. All the other projectors were locked up. I started to feel anxious imagining his disappointment when I broke the news. But I caught myself with an idea. The rest of the ensemble should just act out his story-board on the fly! Would they be willing?

When I asked the class who would be willing to improvise his story on the spot, every single student raised their hand. Every. Single. One.

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The last “play” was the improvisation of this student’s script and I grinned with tears in my eyes as every student zoomed on stage as fighter jets, UFOs, and aliens. They had so much fun. The creator of the story beamed with pride at what they created together. That is a true ensemble. It was one of the best moments of my teaching career.

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