Bringing theatre education into the classroom!
Since 2019 – including the Covid years – our team has been educating students in Asbury Park and Queens with an extensive after-school program.
Over the course of a semester, students learn every aspect of theatre production and have a damn good time doing it.
On our first visit to Asbury Park Middle School in the summer of 2019, we waited in the library for several administrators. There was a shelf labeled Plays, but it was clear this shelf was mislabeled. It should have been called Play because Shakespeare’s Coriolanus was the only book on it. (There are Shakespearean scholars who rarely read that play, let alone 5th graders.) It was in that moment, in that library, that Boardwalk Theatre Company’s ambitious education program was conceived.
Our program launched that October, with four distinct goals:
- Introduce the students to theatre. Many, if not all, had never seen play and most did not know what defined theatre.
- Bring professional performers and work into the classroom. BTC’s musical, Rosa Parks, served as the perfect vehicle to speak to this predominantly African American student body.
- Get the kids on their feet! Improvisational theatre games make students part of theatre, part of the action, part of the story.
- Fill the shelf! Our endgame was to have these students each create their own short play/scene and create a bound version of the collection to knock Coriolanus off its lofty perch. Imagine a decade from now, students turning to that shelf and seeing the work of the students who came before them, not the second-rate work of dead English writers.
Our first year was an incredible learning experience. We made plenty of mistakes, but we learned plenty of lessons. The primary one being that this was not a program to be executed with monthly or bi-monthly visits from our team. These students required consistent contact. They needed to know and trust us. And once they did, they would freely and exuberantly come along for the ride.