Summer Workshops with AFA

Melissa Smith is leading summer AFA workshops at New Alternatives for Children, a center for children living with disabilities.  She is teaching theatre skills and preparing the kids for final presentation for family and staff.  This week, she spoke with the AFA staff to tell us more about her experience in the workshop rooms this summer (if you’re wondering about AFA’s workshops during the school year, look here)!

What are you up to?

I’ve been doing a theatre workshop at New Alternatives for Children for the past 4 weeks.  The sessions are 3 hours with a break each week.  We are able to work towards a presentation at the end of each session. 

What has that been like?

The first few weeks the challenge was to get the group to reveal things about them selves that related to the group, make bold choices and take leadership positions.  Some did not even want to share their name on the first day.  I have also been working on getting them to release their voice.  Literally – in the beginning it was the quietest theatre workshop in all of the land.

This past week the new set of challenges were quite the opposite! The group is starting to gel and open up and are clearly having lots of fun, building healthy relationships and self esteem while learning.  This week, the challenge is quite different.  We are focusing on collaboration in the group.  In the last session, every single kid wanted to take the lead, so we worked on giving in the group, not always being in control or being the leader.  What a difference from the first class!

Through the games and exercises, they are learning to make negotiations and compromises with their peers and exploring ways to express themselves.

How do you organize your curriculum?

I introduced storytelling the first week and have layered in theatre techniques and terms each week as we progress. With very few materials – simple scripts, scarves,  and of course their IMAGINATIONS – they have put together some very elaborate and creative stories each week.

Here’s an example of one of the basic scripts:
A: no
B: no
A: yes
B: no
A: yes
B: yes

The Arts For All team strongly suggests you try this script out at home!  Find a partner, create a simple scenario, and see where the words take you!  Preferably in air conditioning.

What about you?  What’s your reaction to seeing all of this?

It’s so fun to see their imaginations take the lead and watch the elaborate stories they build around these simplistic scripts!

Thank you, Melissa!

“Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere!”   – Albert Einstein

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