Friday, May 28, 2010

Pre-K Play: Our Performance

Wednesday was the big day for our Pre-K students. At long last, after 5 months of rigorous, collaborative, creative work we performed our play: A Beautiful Nightmare.

I have been documenting our process since February. Here are those posts in order of appearance:

First Draft: The Pre-K Play
Pre-K Play Second Draft: Featuring An All-Lilac Fairy Cast
Pre-K Play Third Draft: Still A Lot Of Lilac Fairies
Pre-K Play Fourth Draft: Only One Lilac Fairy
Pre-K Play: The Giant Nutcracker
Pre-K Play: "A Beautiful Nightmare"

I don't expect anyone who hasn't been following along from the start to go back and read all of those posts, but if you did I think it would show that this has been rich, deep, and meaningful for the kids, something they "own" collectively. It's important to me that the children of Woodland Park share the experience of working as a team to pull off something bigger than they alone could accomplish. This is how great things usually get done in the world, with people working together. It's a project spread out over a long time, one that calls on each of them to contribute, compromise, and stay focused. The play finally came to be our entire curriculum during the final couple months of school. Nearly everything we did during our special 2.5 hour session each week came to in some way bear upon this singular effort. We were a writers' workshop, a scene shop, a production team, a troupe.

And no less members of our ensemble are the three parent assistant teachers who worked with me each Tuesday afternoon this year to support the kids in making their vision manifest. I've known all of them for a long time. All three of Lisa's kids have been with us, Hannah, Eli, and now Sarah. Deirdre's daughter Ailis was part of the very first class I taught for 3 full years, and now her baby brother Finn is a kindergardener. And Gloria's daughters Aria and Luna are "lifers" as well. All three families are now moving on. I'm a lucky man to have had them in my life.

In the video you will see these three women, all of whom I love and respect, working as our running crew. I try to focus on the kids when I'm at school so I'm not always aware of what a well-oiled machine our parent community is. I count on these people without even being aware it. That's how good they are. You'll see a lot of Lisa as our prop master who helps the kids from behind the stage, and Deirdre, who served as our house manager and all-around fire-putter-outter. You'll see less of Gloria because she was behind the scenes working with the talent, helping with costume changes, entrances and exits. In this video, you'll get a glimpse of what really makes our school work, our parent assistant teachers.

On the day of the show,  our school day started as usual, but at 10:30 I discretely told the Pre-K kids it was time to get ready for the play and they slipped out, leaving their younger classmates, next year's Pre-K class, in sole possession of the room. There is a special feeling when this happens. This is next year's team. We played awhile together, just us, cleaned-up together, then had a circle time, just us, a preview of our Tuesday afternoons next year. We sang Little Boxes together, completely unaware of the gathering crowd and giddily excited peers in the next room.

When I got the "all clear" sign from Deirdre we wrapped things up. I told them that we were going into the gym to see a play put on by their friends. For some of these children, it was clearly the first time that they'd ever been made aware of "Pre-K." I warned them that there would be a lot of grown-up people in their gym, but they were, of course, still a little overwhelmed by the moment of entering the gym. This video begins as we're getting them seated up front.

Without further ado, here is the video shot by Thomas' dad Rob.

2010 Woodland Park Coop Pre-K Class Play from rob mcgarty on Vimeo.

Yesterday was our last day of school, our newly anointed kindergardeners returning to "visit" their preschool friends, our newly anointed Pre-K kids. I brought all the props and set pieces into the classroom. We built a stage out of blocks then acted out the A Beautiful Nightmare again and again, all of us together, one last time.

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Play for Life said...

Bravo Tom!
Donna :) :)

Michelle said...

I can only say... WOW!! It all came together beautifully, and I am so happy that we got to see it. The kids and I watched every minute and I soon had purple and pink super hero's and unicorns flying around the room. Thank all your families for allowing us the priviledge of watching their precious children on this special day!!!

Unknown said...

I loved the play. It was so fun to read about it as you were preparing. The children did fantastic. LOVE their costumes.

Loved seeing Teacher Tom in action
: )

Scott said...

That was absolutely wonderful! I knew it would be...after reading all about the work that went into it. But seeing it was priceless. Thank you!

Let the Children Play said...

What I love most is how you have involved the kids (or let the kids lead) every step of the way: they have had complete ownership of the play from the word go and you can see how much fun they all had performing it.

I've always had a bit of a problem with performances in preschools - they seem so teacher directed and are put on for the purpose of all the adults involved rather than the children. Your play however was a true collaboration and a magical learning experience that covered so many areas of development. It was a joy to watch.

(My son's loved when they all danced to Abba !)

pamela wallberg said...

I liked how the children's voices were obviously honored...I'm assuming that all the random punching of things wasn't your input...??

Teacher Tom said...

@Jenny . . . Even the idea of doing a play in the first place was the kids' idea. My prompt in January was to ask them to think of something they wanted "to do for the whole school." Seven years ago Vaughn wanted to do a play about Harry Potter and that evolved into our annual play which continues each year due to the institutional memory being carried forward by the children year-to-year. Every fall at least one child arrives at school on the first day asking about her play.

Teacher Tom said...

@Pamela . . . Indeed! The only words that are mine are the stage direction. I've learned that it really helps the kids if I include the stage direction in the scripts (e.g., ". . . and then they come back to the stage.")

Betsy said...

I echo Jenny's comments above. My daughter and I have gotten such a kick out of every post about the Pre-K play and were so thrilled to be able to watch it! I love the fact that they wanted to act it out again on the last day of school. Our last day was yesterday--have a wonderful summer!

Domestic CEO said...

After having read the various posts about the steps involved in creating the play, I'm so glad that I got to see a video of the performance. It was fabulous to see what was so obviously a class-created, student-led production. Well done!