The End

Well, folks, the curtain has closed.

My internship with CMT ended this past Thursday, and to be honest I was a little emotional. The program was truly special and my advisor was a delight to work with.

I practiced the first draft of my final presentation on Friday, and received some very helpful feedback. Next week I will be editing this and my final product, my essay.

Thank you all so much for following along on this journey. It was truly special. When I’ve finished my essay, I will post it on here.

But until then,

Thank you and goodbye.

Week 2

Ah! Hello!

The first round of school musical performances has been a stunning success. There’s so much buzz around the show — some teachers enjoyed it so much they’re even bribing their students with extra credit to get them to go watch. Ms. Sweet has had teachers and admin and students alike come into her office to compliment our production, and some non-theatre students have even been persuaded to join drama next year. This is all very exciting, and it’s also very new. I’ve been in my school’s drama program since it began four years ago, and never before have I seen such enthusiasm and support. Things are looking up for the theatre.

That’s all for this week. Pray for our second round of performances. Bye!

Little Shop of Horrors

Hiiiiiii.

This week at CMT I archived some songs and finally finished my essay. Massive edits will be made, but it’s structurally sound.

The big news of the post is that our school show is finally here! Today, in fact. The cast and crew have been working so hard this week every night from 4pm to 9pm on tech and rehearsals. It’s been a long and exhausting week for everyone. Please wish us luck tonight!

As for a question I received on my post last week: were there any differences in answers among the different age groups I interviewed? The answers I received were all relatively similar in nature, with mentions of self confidence boosting and community building. I also should mention I only interviewed campers ages 14-18, so the age range was quite small.

See you next week!

Spring Break

Happy yet-another-Friday, all.

School was out this week, but the cast continues to work at home in preparation for our performance in exactly one week (dear God).

I continued writing, synthesising the information from the sources I read. The essay isn’t yet completed, but it will be by next week. I should be able to manage three more paragraphs easily.

In other news, at CMT I looked up some more prop crafts in preparation for the summer camps. I also had the chance to speak to a few current CMT Mainstage performers (ages 14-20). They spoke quite fondly of the program they were in, and though their answers were brief and to the point, they were articulate. I noticed that they all mentioned having experienced a boost in confidence as a result of participating in theatre. I also heard the majority of my interviewees mention how CMT gave them a community or an inclusive family of good people. One performer mentioned that something unique about drama was that everyone wins because everyone is working together to achieve one solid common goal, which is just to give the best performance they can. After speaking with the students, I professed to one of the volunteer parents how impressed I was with the level of self-assurance these kids possessed, and she simply said, “Oh, it’s this place.” She told me that though some of the beginners start out shy and timid, they become someone entirely different on stage. It was quite inspiring to hear how impactful drama has been in these people’s lives.

Next week, the schedule returns to normal with the added monster that is tech rehearsals for our school production. Check back in to see if I survive that and our first show.

Oh, Interviews

Hai.

This week at school we’ve been focusing on perfecting the first act of the musical. We are singing louder, smoothing out transitions, and finally delivering lines off book.

At home I’ve continued writing. As of right now, I’ve gotten down all my observations and some synthesis with my research. By the end of next week, I would like to put into writing all my notes on all the scholarly texts I read on psychology and drama.

My CMT advisor gave me a new project: interviews. I came up with a series of questions for CMT staff, teachers, and students. Some of my inquiries include:

What has been your experience with theatre? How did you come to participate in drama? How has drama influenced you? Have you found anything in the theatre that you might have not found or learned elsewhere?

On Thursday I interviewed four staff members who had begun acting at a very young age (3-10 years old). According to them, drama programs gave them safe spaces as children, secure environments in which they could express themselves and also learn how to be team players as they shouldered the responsibility of working towards a goal that was bigger than their individual selves. They also mentioned that through acting, they were able to become more open to other people’s opinions, more adaptive to social situations, more comfortable with public speaking, and more focused in their work ethic. Essentially, their testimony was very supportive of the theory that drama can influence kids in such a way that they may improve their self confidence, empathy skills, and academic standing.

I’m going to continue interviews next week, when I will be speaking to some of the CMT campers and parents. Check in next Friday to see what they say!

I can write

Good day (night? evening? afternoon? twilight? ew no not that…)!

The work continues this week as I returned to CMT. There, I edited some Summer Camp Welcome packets, which go out to the campers’ parents.

At home, I was preoccupied with writing my final product — a persuasive essay. My ultimate goal is to write and organise my paper in such a way so that I can present all my research and observations in a way that is more enjoyable to read as well as easier to comprehend and navigate. But for the moment I’m just trying to crank out and synthesise all the information I’ve found. My main argument is that children’s drama programs stimulate the maturation of the prefrontal cortex and simultaneously engage the right brain, which can aid in adolescents’ development of executive function and lead to improvements in empathy, self confidence, and grades.

At school we’ve been running through each of our musical’s two acts with one or two songs left to choreograph.

While observing the seventh period school drama elective, I heard the students evaluate their showcase, which they performed earlier this week. They critiqued their acting choices — some areas of improvement that were mentioned were projection and executing bolder (but still controlled) acting choices. Some of the actors received praise for committing to their character while on stage even while collaborating with and helping their fellow actors backstage. The eighth graders set up for their evening showcase, which I attended. They, along with some high school drama students, presented Almost, Maine, a rom-com by John Cariani. Each of the scenes was performed in dialogues (in one instance there was a trio), and so the audience could really focus on each actor. This meant the students needed to be emotionally in tune with their characters in order to effectively convey the comedy and the touching romantic bits across to the audience. Though in terms of technicality there were a few instances where the some of the actors faced away from the audience, overall, the scenes felt natural. The kids were able to connect with their roles and not just recite lines, but have a conversation on stage. The qualities I see that are most developed in the eighth grade (and above) class are confidence and empathy. These upper classmen not only chose the play, but they casted it themselves and portrayed their characters well.

And that’s that. See you soon.

The Weird Week That Was

Happy New Year to those of you who celebrated the coming of Spring this Tuesday! I took that day off, so right now while posting this, I feel as though it should be Thursday.

School musical rehearsals continue, as we had a four hour session on Monday to tighten up choreography. Working out the bugs is a steady process, and the cast is focusing on refining the more technical blocking while achieving the bold characterisation needed in this play. I also continued observing the school drama elective classes. In the sixth grade class, groups of students got up on stage to rehearse the scripts that they themselves wrote. They worked on refining their lines, cutting out unnecessary jokes, and comedic execution. The seventh graders continued A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Verbally, their humour is well done, and so they focused more on revising their blocking and movements about the stage as well as projecting. In the eighth grade class pairs of students presented their dialogues on stage. Afterwards, they received notes, as Ms. Sweet reminded them to ask themselves, “How would my character react in this situation.” Thus, their main area of work was figuring out how to transport themselves into their characters’ mindsets.

While at CMT this week, I edited more of the education brochures that I mentioned last week, and I also had a considerable amount of time to read and research for my project.

In regards to research, I looked into articles regarding the effect prison drama programs have on inmates. Studies show that the men who participated in theatre classes while incarcerated reported increased emotional control, intellectual flexibility, confidence/self esteem, and teamwork capabilities amongst other improvements. The reason for these benefits the men experienced is that engagement in artistic endeavours stimulates and helps develop the right brain, which thusly results in the bettering of critical thinking and emotional control. Last week I read about executive function and how its development in adolescents is linked to the maturation of the prefrontal cortex. If drama has such an impact on adult inmates whose brains have matured already, then it is no surprise that it may positively affect children while engaging both their right brain and contributing to the development of their prefrontal cortex.

I’ve outlined my persuasive essay in which I will present all my work cohesively, and I have begun writing it. By next week, I hope to be almost or completely finished with it.

See you again, soon!

Empathy, Executive Function, and Employment

Happy last Friday before spring, everyone!

Back at CMT, I read through and edited education brochures, which are sent out to schools. These packets contain information about what CMT is and what it aims to achieve in the community — to foster a love for musical theatre in young children — and also explains to teachers and parents the importance of educational drama programs. Some of these benefits align with two of the advantages of theatre that I am looking into: building self-confidence and empathy skills. The brochures discuss the importance of role playing, or placing oneself in the mindset of another, within a safe space, which will thusly encourage the development of these benefits.

Rehearsals at school continue, and our musical is being pieced together and refined slowly but surely. I am very excited for us to present all our hard work when the time comes. School was out this Friday, and so I was unable to observe any drama elective classes.

This week I was once again reading a ton. I looked into how adolescence is the time during which the prefrontal cortex matures, a phenomenon which is linked to the honing of executive function. This is a developmental stage that includes the improvement of such things as memorisation skills, critical thinking, and self control. A connection may be drawn to drama and how it encourages these qualities. Through practicing script memorisation and interpretation, performers learn how to expand their capacity to remember and comprehend complex and multifaceted concepts as well as to channel their knowledge into an appropriate physical manifestation.

Ms. Sweet suggested I look through the website of the Marin Shakespeare Company, an organisation which works to provide Shakespeare-themed drama programs for inmates. In some of the prisons, the students have transcended canon Shakespearean script in favour of writing their own, more personalised material. These positive experiences with theatre have allowed inmates to become more open about their stories, and in some cases former inmates pursue acting professionally because of the skills they developed while in class. I’ll further explore the Marin Shakespeare Company’s website for more information over the next week.

As for qualities employers look for while considering possible recruits, I found many characteristics with the potential to be improved and nurtured by drama: teamwork capability, ambition, critical thinking skills, etc.

I’ve started synthesising what I’ve learned about adolescent psychology with the research I’ve done this week. As of right now, my goal for next week is to continue this.

Thanks a bunch for reading!