- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 22, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - Surrounded by sixth graders - many of whom are at least as tall as she is - Teresa Elmore wasn’t easy to spot in her classroom on Oct. 9.

But her students knew exactly where to go as they sought advice on the plays they were working on, the culmination of a unit on technical theater.

Elmore, a first-year Central Middle International School drama teacher, told one group to think about movie soundtracks when selecting music to set the mood they wanted for their play. She advised another group to look for an app on their phones with a sneezing sound - rather than grab some pepper from the cafeteria to try to get one of the students to sneeze, as they had originally suggested.

As other groups moved to the hallway to rehearse, visited the media center to print images of their props and assembled a poster displaying their costume designs, Elmore kept the 30 students in her class on task amid the flurry of activity, talking and laughter.

Elmore’s six-week technical theater unit covered costume design, lighting, scenic design and sound design. One day, the class went to the student center and Elmore mapped out the hierarchy of the theater business on a whiteboard that covered the whole wall so students could see the different roles required to put on a production. As a summative assessment for the unit, students picked a group to work with and selected a fairytale to rewrite into a play.

They had to pick a theme for the play - like a zombie version of “Stone Soup” or Halo-themed “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” - and the set design, costumes, lighting and dialogue had to reflect the theme. In addition to performing a five-minute scene from their play, students also had to make a prop list that outlined when things would enter and exit the stage, give a presentation on the work they did and explain the technical choices they made for their production.

“It’s taking basically the projects they did (in the technical theater unit) and applying it to that play. They’re taking on the role of that person as they learned it,” Elmore told the Kokomo Tribune (https://bit.ly/1teE83t ). “I’m excited about their plays. . It’s really cool how they turned it into a play right away. I try to do summative assessments that incorporate different types of expression.”

Students had plenty of flexibility in how they could complete the project. They could draw a few scenes from their play or create one 3-D scene in a shoebox. They could build a prop or find images online of what they would like to use.

Thursday was show time.

Five girls - playwright Olivia Hicks, costume designer Molly Hunter, prop designer Lizzie Felker, sound designer Molly Mavrick and scenic designer Ashlyn Markley - took the “stage” first.

A large sheet of paper with the wintry setting for their fairytale, “I Wander,” was hung on the whiteboard behind them. They ducked behind a book cart for offstage wardrobe changes, which the girls said was one of the hardest parts of keeping the production running smoothly. They had to take on multiple roles to cover all the characters in their story.

“I’m an actor usually. Now I understand more what (backstage hands) do,” said Hunter, who performs with Curtain Call Theatre for Children. “I was nervous because we lost our scripts and someone stole one of our props. But the show must go on.”

The girls said they learned how much teamwork it takes to put on a production, and they liked that they got to pick their own groups for the project.

The six boys who performed the zombie version of “Stone Soup” agreed that teamwork was critical in putting together their play. They also had issues with losing the backdrop that was their set, and they said it was difficult to decide who would handle each role.

“It’s harder than you think to write a play and carry it out,” said David Farr, who was the group’s scenic designer.

Skyler Ridenour was the costume designer, Ian Blassingame designed props, Ian McKinney managed the lighting, Aidan Alter handled the sound and Ethan Zackschewski was the playwright.

“My favorite part was the music,” said Blassingame, giving Alter kudos for his choice of a dubstep version of the World War Z soundtrack to set the tone for their production.

There were plenty of zombie-like “grrrrs” mixed in with their characters’ dialogue, and this particular stone soup recipe included various kinds of brains. The boys liked that Elmore let them be creative.

“She said we could do anything we wanted and we could change it up,” McKinney said.


Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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