Monday, December 31, 2018

Improv Games & Writing a Class Play

In December, twelve students and I wrote an original script for a class play. We played lots of improv games, collaborated on the play's concept, studied five famous artists, created fabric-based paintings which could be worn as capes, and built an amazing and elaborate time machine as a set piece!

I just read an article on Key Elements for Creating Collaborative Learning Spaces and it reminded me so much of our play production. This article stated that there are "four Cs" of 21st century learning: collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication. I couldn't agree more!

On December 21, we performed our play to a large audience of families and friends. The production was titled "The Fantastic Art Show." The whole thing came together in just a few weeks! Here are some of my notes and photos:

Becca, the oldest student in our group, played the owner of an art gallery. The following plot summary was printed on the program along with the cast list. Since it's a bit of an unconventional storyline, we wanted to be sure the audience could follow what was happening on stage. I printed the handouts on a computer but the children handwrote the play title at the top of the programs (80 in all) carefully in Chancery Script with their fountain pens.

    Becca is getting ready for a big art show. She looks at the art after she finishes putting it up and really wishes she could have met the artists that did those paintings. Some mad scientists overhear Becca and bring out their newly constructed time machine so that she can meet those artists. The five artists come out. They are Vasily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, and Jackson Pollock. When Becca first sees the artists she is happy and very grateful for the mad scientists. The artists are also very happy to meet each other. They form an improv troupe and play improv theatre games. When it is time to go, they have a special surprise gift for Becca: a brand-new collaborative art piece.

Improv Games
Although we only included four improv games as part of the final play performance, we played many games in the month of December to build our acting skills. Improv requires collaboration, communication, and flexibility. It was a wonderful -- and fun -- team building experience for our class!

I've played some of these improv games before in my Fables Spring Break Camp; links below are to my previous posts with instructions for how to play.

the Improv Remote Control for "Don't Push the Red Button"

Artist Study: Books and Videos
We are so fortunate to have four hours of art class a week: two hours of art on Tuesday mornings and two hours of art on Thursday mornings. The Thursday art teacher, Ms. Kelly, worked with the children to help them learn more about the great artists we chose and to create the costumes. I also purchased many books to have on hand in the classroom, useful while writing the artist biographies and making the art for the art gallery display.

No photography or videography was allowed during the performance so we have pictures of beforehand and afterwards.

Many thanks to both art teachers, Ms. Anna and Ms. Kelly, for their inspiring work with the children in art class. We really came to know the styles of these five great artists well. And thank you to all of the Little Bluestem families for donating mad scientist lab coats, goggles, etc. AND for donating miscellaneous fabulous tech supplies for our amazing Time Machine. Many thanks to Jim King for volunteering to take the Time Machine construction project under his wing. This involved meeting with the children multiple times to hear about their design ideas, providing the basic cardboard panels for the modules, and then ultimately assembling the machine and transporting it to the play location! Students worked individually or in pairs to create panels for the Time Machine and it was quite a sight to behold! Thank you to all of the children for their hard work and positive attitude. And thank you to everyone who attended the performance. It was amazing!

yes, creating a play takes lots of planning meetings

I clear away the things in my garage so we have a big open space for...
Jackson Pollock, paint thrower extraordinare

the Pollock costume (painted cape) is on the right

painting in the style of Pollock

listening to pieces of music and painting in the style of Kandinsky
"Moonlit Sonata"
"Night on Bald Mountain"

painting self portraits on mirrors in the style of Kahlo

Ms. Kelly shows off her self portrait

the beautiful Georgia O'Keeffe flower cape

the Matisse cape covered in paper cutouts

creating the painting-in-progress for Pollock to bring on stage; other
artists will add elements in their style to it during the course of the play

collecting supplies for the time machine

first time machine brainstorm session

each team gets a large cardboard panel to decorate as they see fit

team planning begins

painting the background colors

laying out design elements

figuring out how to attach heavy circuit panels and bulky tubing was tricky!

Ultimately, we discovered we could SEW the circuit panels on!  
We  used a thin knitting needle to punch the holes in the cardboard at the points where the circuit panels had pre-drilled holes, and then sewed through the holes with sturdy yarn, or attached the panels by running wire through the holes and twisting it on the back side of the panel.  We also ran wire through the tubing to keep it in place and twisted the wire together on the back.  Figuring out how to attach our creative visual elements took the bulk of the time and required problem solving and ingenuity!

 using a homemade pushpin compass to draw a huge circle

the top of the time machine
with working Christmas lights

panels begin to come together

set the time machine controls to enter a desired time period...
where would YOU like to go?

the Devonian period?
dinosaur times?
the age of the terror bird?
Ancient Egypt?

 sewing on the snap circuits board and components

the library floor is covered with finished panels
ready to be assembled together into our machine

creating the individual elements to be added to the collaborative tapestry during the play; we discover that soft & creamy Faber-Castell gelatos work great on cotton fabric!

Frida Kahlo's self-portrait

"Five Famous Artists:  A Journey through Time"

Frida Kahlo welcomes everyone to the play!

Becca walks around her art gallery checking on the art before the play begins

a peek at the crew backstage

the mad scientist lab

time machine (left hand side)

time machine (front)
with working snap circuit lights

curious bystanders want to know... 
what's it like inside there?

time machine (right hand side)
with hand cranks inside to flip the sand timer and spin the vortex

Matisse standing by a piece of his art in the art gallery

the finished collaborative piece of art is absolutely stunning

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