A mentoring program for elementary students by high school drama students has turned into a learning experience for all. The Advanced Children's Theatre class members decided to form an afterschool exploratory theatre program for third, fourth and fifth graders in the fall.
The 14 Mexico High students devised the tryout system, and attempted to select 25 participants from the 51 applicants, ending with 28 selected for the troupe. "We wanted to open the program up to all the elementary schools, and focus the eventual performance so that it mirrored the performances of the 'Something for Nothing Players' traveling troupe," Sara Given, teacher, said. "We had to keep the group to manageable numbers, so we decided to cast 20-25 elementary students each semester."
Five experienced students served as the panel of judges, and the other students worked with the children during the auditions, giving pointers and assistance with audition scenes.
"Together the high school students went though the 51 photos, audition forms and judge rankings to select their choices," Given said. "They had a really hard time selecting the 28, and would probably have taken all 51 if it would have been possible."
Given said going through the process was a valuable learning experience for the high schoolers. "They got to see firsthand how difficult it is to run auditions and select for a cast," she said. "I think they have a better appreciation for the process now that they have been in that position."
The high school students will hold auditions in January for a second semester troupe. All students in grades 3-5 at Eugene Field, Hawthorne, McMillan and St. Brendan schools are eligible. "All the students can audition again," Given said. "However, they are not guaranteed a spot next semester just because they were involved this semester."
The Drama Dawgs meet with their mentors Thursdays from 3:30-5 p.m. on the stage at Emmons Hall. The children have learned the basics, and are in the process of preparing for a community performance.
"I love Drama Dawgs because I get to learn more about acting and it is always fun to play Mrs. Given's silly games," Cora Ransom from Eugene Field School said. "Working with the high school students is great because they know what they are doing and they add funny parts to the skits. I am looking forward to performing the skits at the elementary schools in December."
The students have taught vocal and physical acting warmups and several acting games that teach characterization, ensemble work, timing, quick thinking skills, basic acting techniques, improvisation and vocalization. They are also working on scripts for their performance.
This semester, the theme is fractured fairy tales. After Given led two lessons, the high school students took over. The leader of the high school group is Sidny Groves. Each of the stories is being directed by troupe members.
Page 2 of 2 - "It is exciting for the Drama Dawgs to see how the high schoolers, who they have seen perform at their schools, put it all together," Groves said. "I get to share what I've learned from the class and get to share what I love with these kids."
The students in the Advanced Children's Theatre class are required to work a minimum of six hours each semester, and receive a grade for their directing. "Although the high school students are required to log hours for a grade, most of them have come to every session," Given said. "They really enjoy working with the younger ones, and the younger ones look up to them."
The presentation for the community will be Monday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 in Emmons Hall. In addition, when the Something for Nothing Players go on tour at the elementary schools, the Drama Dawgs will perform with the troupe at their schools.
"I like feeling like an inspiration to the younger kids," Maddie Martin said. "It makes me want to strive to be a better person, and I think the program gives them older students to look up to."
The Drama Dawgs originated at Eugene Field School, but when the group was discontinued, the MHS students decided to keep the same name, adding the motto: "Drama Dawgs, Back with a Bigger Bark."
The Drama Dawgs, by schools, are Keiliana Cox-Flores, Raven Fountain, Kyla Gentry, Noah Harlan, Kiki Long, Clay Moran, Grant Norfleet, Brett Pascoe, Ella Robertson and TobyAnn Whitaker, Hawthorne.
Eugene Field: Ben Clampitt, Sierra Crum, Amelia Denham, Bradley Dunn, Kierstyn Garner, Lexie Kelm, Lilly Knipfel, Matthew McCurdy, Ransom, Hope Richards, Rhea Thapar, Kali Turlington and Ava Wilson.
McMillan: Cole Jones, Carter Maxwell and Winona Whelan.
St Brendan: Jillian Chambers.
The members of the Something for Nothing Players are Miah Case, Debra Eisenhofer, Alie Finch, Groves, Mackenzie Hawkins, Delaney Jones, Gabe Jones, Elizabeth Kasubke, Jacob Lauer, Grace Maddox, Martin, Austin Patillo, Trevor Plummer and Kirby Weber.