Archive for August, 2011

Arts Education Upclose: Fantastic Voyages Through Our Imagination

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

By Tammi Gardner, Theatre

On the first day of classes, my students walked into the Creative Kids classroom and saw a big square made from blue tape in the middle of the room and exclaimed, “This room is completely empty!” And I replied, “That’s because we are going fill it up with our IMAGINATION!”

And as promised over the next three weeks, we have managed to:

  • Travel to the jungle of West Africa where we asked the Sky God for Wisdom and had to complete three impossible tasks;
  • Go Italy to visit Strega Nona (Grandmother Witch) where we made a “magic pot” of pasta – made a monster named Abiyoyo disappear by singing and playing our ukeleles;
  • Waddled our way to Antarctica to play with some wacky penguins;
  • Chased a wild “dumpling” down a hole where we met the Wicked Oni;
  • And even went to the MOON in our rocket ship for a glass of milk and a “moon pie.”

All by using our 5 Acting Tools and Skills:  Imagination, Concentration, Cooperation, our Bodies and our Voice.

As we continued the Creative Kids Program into its third week of the ELO-Care Program, each class has shined in different aspects of the program curriculum and are preparing for their final performance on Thursday, June 28.

The Green Group (2nd/3rd graders) were awesome at retelling stories and acting them out.  They were able to use their imaginations not only to create the characters but inanimate objects also came alive and became a part of our story enactment.  By cooperating and working together, they made a wonderful environmental orchestra providing the background sounds for our stories too!  They will be enacting their favorite story, “Jimmy Zangwow’s Out Of This World Moon Pie Adventure” as their final performance piece and leading the entire ELO-Care student body in a moving, yet silly warm-up!

While the Baseball Group (3rd/4th graders) excelled at writing their own extension stories and even wrote a story called “Smelly Business” – that told of the  antics of Big Anthony when he takes Strega Nona’s magic perfume and grows a heap of trouble – and made it into a book to send to children in a homeless shelter.  They will be performing their own hip extension story based off “Tacky the Penguin” called, “Wacky Tacky Meets the New Girl in Town.”

The Basketball Group (4th/5th graders) focused more of how the 6 Pillars of Characters were represented or applied in each of our stories.  As growing young people, they quickly learned the effects words and actions – even when given by friends – can affect people and hurt them.  As their final performance, two students will be hosting a live “talk show” (based off the story “Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears”) to interview animals (played by the other students)  accused of the terrible crime of killing a baby owlet, so that “…Mother Owl won’t wake the Sun so the day will come.”  The hosts will help each animal determine their part in the tragedy and what they – using the 6 Pillars – could have done differently to have prevented it.

What a trip!  If only we had a few more – just imagine where else we could go!

Arts Education Upclose: Quite the Characters

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

By Nora Achrati

At Broad Acres, the kids rotate activities every six days according to age group. They’ve been divided into three classes each of 4th & 5th-graders, 2nd & 3rd-graders, and kindergarten & 1st-graders. I started out with the 4th & 5th-graders, who are fantastic. These kids threw themselves into our stories improv games, and really impressed me with the level of respect and empathy they carried for each other.

It was bittersweet having to give them up in the middle of Week 2 – they’d done some really stellar work with the Zomo story, inventing and illustrating new paths for Zomo to take in his quest for the scales of Big Fish, the milk of Wild Cow, and the tooth of Leopard. We’re excited to be able to donate these different Zomo stories to the community.

Wednesday I was introduced to the 2nd and 3rd-graders for the first time, which meant starting again from scratch. These kids are much more rambunctious, harder to settle, so we’ve had to re-emphasize the character pillars and class rules each day. And we’ve been experimenting with compromises – setting up a “wiggle area” where kids who find it harder to sit still can be for a while (individually, and quietly), and balancing on-the-floor acting activities with hands-on, sit-down activities. I’ve had to adapt my lessons, too – my second class of the day rebelled against Strega Nona (too many of them had read it before and wanted something new), so Thursday we read and performed “Manana Iguana” together, and Friday we spent making masks to represent the different animal characters:

Emely as Conejo (Rabbit)

Sam and Hyggencio as Culebra (Snake) – It's a bit hard to tell here, but both Sam and Hyggencio came up with a clever way to use pipe cleaners for Culebra's tongue and construction paper for his fangs.

More Conejos (a popular choice). I'm particularly proud of Kelvin, left, who tends to get into trouble when we're on the floor acting but thrives when he has art materials in front of him.

My two other classes are also familiar with Strega Nona, but they’ve enjoyed adapting the story to our classroom theater, and they’re terrific at embodying the different characters – including Strega Nona’s animals, the townspeople, and the magnficent pasta pot.

Based on the success of the masks, though, I think I’ll be introducing “Manana Iguana” to the other classes before our time is up. The kids in the second class seemed to appreciate how much Spanish was incorporated into the story – for many, Spanish is a primary language at home – and enjoyed translating for me the days of the week and their own words for “party.” They’ve also been excellent at identifying the “Little Red Hen” themes of the story, and applying the character pillars.

This program is  part of the Summer ELO-CARE program offered to select students in Montgomery County Pubic Schools.  This is the ninth year that AHCMC has had the privilege to work with MCPS on this very worthy program.  ELO-CARE is made possible by a grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program and the Maryland State Department of Education.

Montgomery Traditions: More stories coming soon!

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

A couple of months ago, we launched MontgomeryTraditions.Org: a multimedia experience where you can hear the stories of Montgomery County’s diverse folk and traditional artists. I chatted with John Murph, our Montgomery Traditions Producer, about what’s coming down the pipe:

MP: When the site launched, we saw a very diverse collection of stories — diverse both in nationality and in artistic discipline. What kinds of stories can we expect this time around?

John Murph

JM: We have several exciting new stories in the latest stages of production: Cheick Hamala Diabate, a world-renowned multi-instrumentalist from Mali; Lilo Gonzalez, an award-winning guitarist, singer and songwriter from El Salvador; Jay Summerour, a legendary blues harmonica player from Montgomery County; and C.B. Heinemann, who performs traditional Irish music weekly at McGinty’s Public House in Silver Spring.

MP: What’s the most exciting part of collecting these stories?

JM: For me, the most exciting things include discovering the riches of your own backyard. Earlier we did one on the bluegrass guitarist Bob Perilla; this time we did one on blues harmonica player, Jay Summerour. Both genres oftentimes get overlooked in America, because they haven’t obtained the national certification of being “high art” like jazz has, nor have they retained omnipresent popularity of today’s hip-hop and pop. Sometimes we casually and very ignorantly look down at blues and bluegrass as unsophisticated, old, poor people music with very little regard how difficult it is to perform these genres, without any historical perspective or clue that these genres still thrive. So those stories are always revealing. Then there are the stories about some artists who come from other places around the world, who arrive in U.S. for better opportunities yet they haven’t forsaken the folkloric artistry and traditions of their homelands. Some of these artists come from some very harrowing, war torn countries or places, where the government or social culture can be very restrictive in terms of creative and personal expression. In each story, I was able to relate to various parts of each artists’ journey. In the end, it’s a glimpse of what makes Montgomery County so vibrant and unique.

MP: Putting together all this content is a serious undertaking. Who do you have working with you to produce it all?

JM: Well, I have two very talented, very passionate and driven interns: Jack Slattery and Violet Cavicchi. In fact, it was Jack who took the initiative to interview C.B. Heinemann. Jack visited some of his relatives in Ireland earlier this summer and wanted to show how traditional Irish music thrives in Montgomery County. Violet studies anthropology with a heavy interest in Latin American culture. She translated the Lilo Gonzalez interview from Spanish to English. Those interns brought an understanding and professional skills that enabled us to bring these stories to Montgomery Traditions website.

Violet Cavicchi, one of our Montgomery Traditions interns

MP: What is your ultimate hope in sharing these stories?

JM: Ultimately, I want people to be inspired to explore Montgomery County’s multicultural artistic scene. There’s also a diplomatic mission. The more and more we learn about people of different cultures and countries, the more unnecessary divisive walls are torn down. I think one of greatest gifts of Montgomery County is its diversity; we can easily use that to our advantage to promote community unity.

Visit MontgomeryTraditions.Org to hear stories from Montgomery County’s folk and traditional artists.