In 2014, I had my mind set on creating a micro musical for our city’s Big SB150. I wanted South Bend’s youngest artists to play a part in telling our historical story. It occurred to me that aging our founders down might be an interesting perspective (ie: Clem Studebacker as a 10 year old). With lots of research and artistic collaboration, The Children of South Bend was born. We performed the show three times in Aug/Sept of 2015.
It remains a work in progress and that’s how we like to keep it. The original cast had 13 actresses. This summer, 20 children between the ages of 7-13 will tell their version. We offer the foundation of a solid script and score, but invite actors to contribute their ideas about lines, lyrics, actions, costumes, props and character choices. We will learn the material and then we will adjust, adapt. We will experiment. We will dialogue and change things around. Finally, we make decisions and commit ourselves to them, because we know there is a performance on the horizon, and being prepared will give us the freedom to truly enjoy it!
And through it all, we will keep our sights set on our constant mission at Youth on Stage: to cultivate a creative mindset by delving into the unique joy of creating 2017’s The Children of South Bend and the world of musical storytelling.
I JUST CAN’T WAIT!!!!
See you Monday.
I was at a meeting two weeks ago preparing for this summer’s Musical Theatre Pioneer Camp starting June 19th. Someone asked me “Are you a historian?” I paused, surprised by the question, and then replied. “Yes, I am, actually, I’m an actor.” I don’t have a PhD in history, but I do have a lifetime of researching roles for plays and musicals that have earned me a place at the historian’s table. From Medea to Grease; Hildegarde of Bingen to The Sound of Music; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s been an incredible, personal and in depth connection to history that has cultivated in me an expansive world view.
This summer, starting June 19th, some of South Bend’s youngest actors will gather for two weeks to begin researching life in South Bend, circa 1865. They will discover details about South Bend’s founding families, The Studebakers, The Olivers, The Birdsells and others. We will visit the History Museum and search for clues about our characters: Sally Studebaker, Emma Malloy and Frances Coquillard, to name a few.
But don’t let all this serious research and history fool ya! It’s all woven into the developmentally appropriate, wonderfully creative act of making theatre. This rich and relevant South Bend history will be gleaned through song and crafting, friendships and field trips. We will immerse ourselves into the sights, sounds, smells, feel and tastes of the great history of South Bend. And perhaps most importantly, WE WILL HAVE A BLAST doing it!
There are still a couple spots open. See you on the wagon trail.
I recently participated in a professional development for early childhood professionals and the focus was Loose Parts: open ended natural materials that children create with. A 2016 study from The International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education found that building an environment full of open ended natural materials cultivates problem solving, ingenuity and flexible thinking in children. Loose Parts require children to make connections, recalling “What does this look like to me?”. These materials allow children to make play their own.
How do we use Loose Parts in the theatre?
Three years ago, I was taking a walk around my neighborhood. I stumbled upon an oak tree that was dropping its acorns. I bent down to pick one up and the idea for the YOS class Creating Drama in the Woods took flight. My imagination went crazy, wondering about all the ways my students could create drama with these fabulous natural loose parts.
The week long outdoor camp was magical. It was open ended. We used all of our senses to create drama with feathers, rocks, grass, sticks, nuts, leaves, fire (safely!), water, and anything in the woods around us that inspired song and storytelling.
When I think about Loose Parts on a stage, indoors or outdoors, I see a wide open space. Strewn about are piles of fabrics, clothes, hats with different textures and colors. The environment is primed for children to take ownership of their creation. To problem solve. To encourage mental and emotional flexibility. To collaborate and develop social skills that will serve them for life. There are materials scattered messily, waiting for a storyteller to bring them to life. Loose Parts can be fantastically messy. Creating Drama is always brilliantly messy. It’s the perfect creative partnership. Simply put, Loose Parts cultivate creativity. The very mission of Youth on Stage.
I’m collecting Loose Parts for our upcoming Musical Theatre Pioneer Camp, starting June 19th. The tab above will give you all the information you need to register your child for this one-of-a-kind creative experience. We have 5 spots open.
Come help us put it all together!
I’ll be looking for you.
I have to listen to them closely. I have to inherently trust the power of the creative process and be comfortable letting go of my grown up perspective of “success”. When I am guiding them, I must abandon my detailed agenda, and my dualistic thinking. I must truly SEE them with open eyes, so sharp that their individual sparks are not missed. And I must be armed with my toolbox filled with skill, knowledge and years of experience.
Two weeks ago, seven year old Charlotte came to her voice lesson ready to sing. She brought her blow up microphone, blow up piano keyboard, recorder and music binder. We began learning “Daddy”; a song I wrote for our annual camp production of The Children of South Bend.
“Miss Laurie, this (lyric) should say ‘it’s been six weeks and sixteen days’, not ‘fifteen weeks and 13 days.” Charlotte said.
“Tell me what you’re thinking, Charlotte.”
“If you say six weeks and sixteen days, they both start with ‘s’ and they both have the number six in them.” she explained.
Absolutely brilliant, I thought.
“Charlotte, would you like to rewrite the lyric with your new idea?”
Last week we continued our work on the song. Without any reminders, Charlotte sang her new lyrics as if she’d been singing them a lifetime. They danced out of her melodic, clear as a bell tone, delightfully sweet lyrical soprano voice into the world she was creating with song, props and preparedness.
This song had been waiting for Charlotte’s Lyrics. I can almost bet that Charlotte will never forget her lyrics when she sings them this summer. I can see her onstage, prepared and organized, confident, her voice projected and her eyes bright and eager to share her creation.
I hope Charlotte knows her voice has been HEARD. I hope she understands that her Sweet Soul has been SEEN. She’s rehearsed the technical skills of singing and performing and she’s had fun. (I can tell!) She’s ready.
Thank you, Charlotte, for a beautiful collaboration. You make a difference.