The Theatrical Rights Worldwide Partnership Team was created in 2008 to provide human resources to schools in our community, New York City, that need a helping hand creating theatre programs, or enhancing existing departments. Our experiences in the NYC schools have brought us far more insight than we ever imagined. Seeing the faces of kids lighting up a stage for the first time as they discover the joy of artistic collaboration is exhilarating!
In October 2009 the Partnership Team began our work with over sixty first and second graders from the Family School, in the Bronx at P.S. 90, coordinated through Music Specialist Justin Dayhoff and Principal Pamela Lee. November saw the class take the stage for the first time to the delight of the hundreds of family and friends who filled the school’s lovely old auditorium. A follow-up assessment meeting between the Theatrical Rights team and Dayhoff and Lee resulted in an agreement to continue the drama/music program in a new session that began in January, 2010. The program featured an extended schedule, including an early morning before-school component. Teaching theatre at 7:15 a.m. was…awesome! (Once the coffee kicked-in…)
This year our TRW Partnership team school is the Young Leaders Elementary School, also in Bronx, NY. We have a bright, energetic downright adorable group of 33 second-graders who have taken to the once-a-week 90 minute experience like birds to the sky!
Week one we introduced the ‘secret language of the theatre.’ Upstage? Downstage? Stage Left! Stage Right! ALL RIGHT! We were cooking.
Week two we learned new theatre games that quickly became favorites for our young talent. The games revealed a great deal about these amazing kids and their teachers and our teachers. The two-way communication we achieve in the theatre becomes mutual learning from teacher to student and student to teacher. Many of the kids were fearless as they improv’d their way through a series of games designed to get young actors thinking about ACTION! They got it!! So did we.
Week three we introduced some short plays our team improvised for the class. Simple plays that tell clear, short stories of a trip to a museum, a haircut gone awry, an unhelpful bus driver and more. After each one to two minute play performed we invited the other groups to offer friendly criticism. Which they did! Boy, did they. Once they offer criticism of another group, “we couldn’t hear you,” or “you turned away from the audience too much,” they are much more likely to work to improve their own performances.
Week four: We did round two of short, improvised plays. Each new group succeeded in new ways and our process began to really pay-off. Excited, proud and highly-motivated, we realized they were ready for their first scripted plays. Our Partnership Team instructors went to work writing 7 short plays for 5 characters each to have roles for all of our young actors. Lead Instructor Fred Stuart, TRW’s Director of Marketing & Creative Development, and a long-time children’s theatre specialist, describes the process. “By week four we were really getting to know each of our kids and making a great connection with their class and school community. They have a great auditorium and adjacent gym that we can use to rehearse several groups at once, so we decided on seven plays with five characters in each, which gave us a part for every kid and a few extra in case! We chose quickly identifiable scenarios like grocery stores or hair salons and the like. Good situations. Then we introduce one little problem that gets a quick discussion and then resolution. Then a curtain call and then the critique,” Stuart said. “By the time our performance rolled around after our last class even the Art class got involved! And their awesome art teacher Mr. Mac offered his guidance in creating the beautiful backdrops for our stage. Our team was very impressed.”
The Partnership Team has a new member this spring, Danielle Sacks, a recent NYU Theatre grad, who is team-teaching the Young Leaders project with Stuart. “It has been such a privilege to work with TRW and such exciting students. They are engaged and ready to understand the fundamentals! It’s such a joy, watching them confront their fears of speaking in public, creating their own stories and collaborate with their peers through an artistic approach. As a Company. It is so important to keep art as a priority in school systems,” Sacks said. “This has been a great way to get involved.”
The Partnership Team was invited into the Young Leaders Elementary School community by second grade teacher, Kerry McCormack. Kerry and her teaching team have re-affirmed what we already knew at TRW: American teachers are as good as any in the world. It is clear when you speak to Ms. McCormack about her students that she is a very gifted and caring teacher. The love and respect her students have for her is apparent. McCormack offered her expertise in helping us develop our approach to teaching bi-lingual kids from a variety of different backgrounds. Along with McCormack, Young Leaders teachers Amanda Stilwell and Teresita Prieto gave us a full team of very inspiring leaders. The level of concern and specific attention they afford every child in their care is remarkable. In fact, every single member of the school’s staff we encountered were all top-notch at their jobs. We salute their wonderful Principal, Dr. Collins, and assistant principal, Mr. Zindani, for their support in creating this program.
TRW is proud to partner with schools in our community to provide resources for offering students a dedicated theatre experience at a young age. Through our work in schools and community theatres, camps and conferences, we’ve gained a new perspective on musical theatre’s impact on communities worldwide. The Team reflects our staff’s passion for Arts in schools and communities. Steve Spiegel, the President, CEO and founder of Theatrical Rights Worldwide provides vision, support and guidance to the Partnership Team that reflects his 30-plus years of commitment to outreach to schools through Musical Theatre. TRW’s Director of Amateur Licensing and long-time visionary director Jim Hoare is now mentoring our Team in NYC with his years of experience as a master theatre teacher. And our very own Julie Abdelahad, Manager of Licensing & Accounts at TRW, made the Young Leaders partnership happen by putting the two organizations together for this very special project.
The TRW Partnership Team is an outreach program from Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW). Our mission is to adopt New York City schools that would like expertise in creating extra-curricular drama activities for their students. In return for providing teaching artists and engaging programs for actively involving kids in the theatre arts, TRW receives the joy and life-long learning that we need to do our jobs: Providing access to great shows to schools everywhere.