How do you write an original play? How do you write an original play that’s based on things that actually happened?
These were questions Barrett students had at the beginning of their first Main Stage Residency. These were also questions I had as a first-time director. Luckily for us, the subject of our play is familiar—in fact, it’s what Barrett 4th graders have been studying in class.
Our original play, Jamestown: Past and Present, is based on 4th grade Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL’s). The first day that my co-director, teaching artist Katie McCreary, and I sat down with the students, we quizzed them on their Jamestown knowledge. What began as hesitancy when facing an unfamiliar project turned into confidence as hands shot up into the air and looks of recognition took over as students realized they knew ALL about the topic.
In the following weeks, Katie and I taught the students about how to build off of one another’s ideas and how to move the story forward using improvisation techniques. With these skills in hand, students worked together to improvise scenes of the play. Katie and I typed up the recorded scenes and gave each student the opportunity to make revisions to their lines. With their input, the script was finalized and memorization began!
As we prepare for our final rehearsal and performance, we are adding props and costumes. We are reviewing lines and blocking. We are reminding students every rehearsal that this play is something that they built. They used what they learned in Virginia Studies to bring these historical events to life on stage. I hope you get a chance to see this unique play because it is delightfully entertaining—and you’ll probably learn something too.
Jamestown: Past and Present
Barrett Elementary School, Friday March 31st at 6:30 PM –FREE