“That night we went to the show [The Emperor’s New Clothes] with our students, seeing the excitement in their faces as they watched with their parents…that was absolutely the best night of my professional teaching career.” —Janet Mennies, General Wayne Elementary
People’s Light and General Wayne Elementary have worked together for over 20 years, with People’s Light touring plays there from 1980-1999 and providing numerous artist-in-residency programs and workshops in recent years. Susan McKey, Sara Waxman, Janet Mennies, and Christine Parthemore have been working closely together since 2008, bringing not only theatre into the classroom, but also the students and their families into the artistic community at People’s Light.
The pilot program in 2008 provided students with theatre exercises designed to encourage eye contact, physical awareness, and imaginative group play. The exercises from this first year have proven to be the core of our work together, continuing to be constructive methods of encouragement and support and very much loved and remembered by students and aids who have returned to the program in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
In spring 2009, People’s Light and Theatre teaching artists Susan McKey and Sara Waxman again partnered with Janet Mennies and Christine Parthemore in a residency that explored our production of The Emperor’s New Clothes. In-school, students worked closely with actors from the show, as well as our puppet designer Martina Plag, in improvisation, puppet building, and puppet manipulation activities. This residency served students with disabilities in grades K-5 enrolled in General Wayne’s part-time learning support program, and provided an opportunity for the students and their parents to attend The Emperor’s New Clothes.
In the fall of 2010, People’s Light led an eight-week after school program linking to our annual holiday Panto, The Three Musketeers (The Later Years). Resident teaching artists were joined by guest artists Andrew Kane (Beggar/D’Artagnan) and Pete Pryor (Director, Lord Mazzarotti) as students explored swashbuckling, falconry, and the loyalty and friendship of the Musketeer motto, “All for one, and one for all!” Workshops included activities in improvisation, design, and stage combat.
In 2011, People’s Light artists Susan McKey, Sara Waxman, and Wendy Bable will partner with General Wayne Special Education teachers Janet Mennies and Christine Parthemore for their sixth residency. The 2011-2012 program, Anchor's Aweigh!, will provide students in the special education program at General Wayne with the opportunity to create their own original performance, inspired by the annual People’s Light Holiday Panto, Treasure Island.
This inclusive program is intended for students with disabilities in grades K-5 and a sibling/peer with an on-going connection to their life beyond school (both outside school and in the long-term if possible). By connecting students with a “co-star,” we hope to impact learning and the incorporation of skills beyond our weekly sessions, and enhance the co-stars’ acceptance of diversity and making choices that support inclusion. Students served would include those with significant learning disabilities that impact their ability to fully participate in seeing, creating, and participating in a theatre performance.
Students and their families will have the opportunity to connect with the People’s Light community at-large when they attend Treasure Island. We plan to exhibit examples of their work as part of our lobby display, and will facilitate dialogue between program participants and patrons as they view the students’ work. Both the General Wayne and People’s Light communities will be invited to attend the students’ performance in late May. It is important that this program is visible in the landscape of the community.
For more information on our current work at General Wayne Elementary and teaching practices, or to discuss a similar residency with your school or group, please contact Wendy Bable at 610.647.1900 x101, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beginning in January 2011, People’s Light artists will work with twelve students on the autism spectrum from The Pathway School to explore the development of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Students will participate in improvisation, movement and writing exercises, experience the design elements of sets, costumes, and lights and be introduced to the functions of the marketing department, the box office and house management. The residency will culminate in an original theatre piece created by the students in response to these explorations.
The Value of Theatre in the Lives of Individuals with Autism
One of the challenges faced by individuals with autism is the ability to understand the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of others. This can prevent participation in social routines, meaningful conversations, group activities, and engaging in behaviors that indicate a willingness to cooperate, collaborate, and show concern for the well-being of others. Theatre activities help develop social skills including gestural communication, verbal expression, interest in and concern for the well-being of others, and collaboration with group members to achieve a common goal. In these ways theatre is recognized as a valuable paradigm for providing support for individuals with autism.
For more information about our residency at The Pathway School, or to discuss a similar residency with your school or group, please contact Samantha Bellomo, at 610.647.1900 x123, email@example.com.
In May 2012, with guidance of professional artists from People’s Light, Arts Express Week at Devon Elementary included workshops in puppet design, acting, and story-telling for the entire school. K-4 student artwork was showcased in a gallery display and the week culminated in an ensemble performance by the 4th grade class. To help inform their own ensemble performance, the 4th grades class attended a morning performance of the People's Light spring production of A Wrinkle in Time.
Workshops during Arts Express Week at Devon Elementary reinforced The Devon Pledge and Pro-social skills through workshops in movement, storytelling, and puppetry. People’s Light and Theatre provided workshops with professional artists that introduced students to puppetry in a supportive environment that encouraged teamwork, questions, respect of oneself and others, taking risks, making strong/good choices, and reflection. Also, by attending a performance of A Wrinkle in Time during Arts Express Week, students gained a deeper understanding of People’s Light, professional theatre, puppetry, and had the opportunity to exercise self-control and social responsibility in a public setting.
Arts Express Week was designed as a vibrant celebration of student artwork and stories, both in the hallways and in performance.