Standing alone on stage can be intimidating even for most adults, but for 18 fourth-through-eighth graders in our afterschool Theatre Arts program at Manhattan’s Our Lady of Pompeii School, it’s become a confidence-building way to connect with their peers.
Teaching Artist Meagan Smith begins each class with a recitation of the rules—One Mic, Respect, and Say Yes—reminding her young actors to take turns speaking, be courteous to their fellow performers, and try new things. The students demonstrate their understanding of the rules each week by giving examples such as, “take positive risks,” “challenge yourself so that you can grow,” “listen while someone else is talking,” or “support the person performing,” followed by a warm-up exercise to get their theatre muscles moving. Then, it’s time to shine.
Each student walks onto the stage, introduces themselves, and shares something about themselves with the rest of the class in an exercise called “Seeing and Being Seen.” One by one, every student is given a turn in the spotlight, allowing them to practice commanding a stage in a safe and fun environment. “We also focus on projection of the voice, grounding one’s feet, and being brave and confident in front of an audience,” Meagan says, adding that the students have become increasingly comfortable alone on stage as the program progresses.
Much like our students, our work with OLP has flourished in a short amount of time. Last fall we launched this new partnership with a 12-week Theatre Arts program which culminated in an outstanding performance of an original 20-minute play written by the students themselves. After the success of that first semester, we were immediately asked to return in the spring. This semester our students are continuing to build on what they’ve learned about the theatre while preparing to perform an original revue including monologues, songs, and dances. “It’s going to be a fun and energetic performance showcasing the skills and charm of each student,” says Meagan. “I’m really excited for everyone to see it!”
All profits from this fee-for-service partnership go directly toward bringing ATG programs to students in underserved neighborhoods, helping to ensure that all kids have access to the arts. Our thanks go out to Meagan, our wonderful students, and the entire OLP community for making this new program a success that benefits all ATG kids!