Students show their creativity in drama performances
Appleton — A week of drama workshops for third- through fifth-graders culminated in performances by each grade in the Appleton Village School gym Friday, Jan. 31.
With sponsorship from Partners for Enrichment, Beverly Mann, an actor, mask theater performer and educator, movement theater artist, and mask maker who lives in Belfast, spent an hour a day with each grade developing their piece.
Third-graders in Cheryl Morin's class dramatized “Poppy,” by Avi, a favorite story that had been read aloud to them in class; Buffy Ludwick's fourth-grade students created a sketch about a television interview show using masks made by Mann; and fifth-graders in Tammy King's class did an improvisational piece on the theme “camp.”
"Poppy" tells about a community of mice ruled over by a terrifying owl called Mr. Ocax, and how the young mouse Poppy defeats the owl and leads them to a new home.
The fourth-graders' interview show had the host questioning a series of guests, wearing Mann's masks, about their special uses for potatoes. The masks, Mann noted, can help shy children try on a new personality on stage.
The fifth-grade improvisational sketch began with a group of children at camp. The actors became the scenery, with some playing the fire pit bounded by logs, others being the flickering flames, and others being the campers. They asked camp counselor to tell them a story, and most of the sketch was the story, “The Island of the Beast,” about a group of sailors who land on a deserted island and encounter a gorilla. Students not only played the sailors and the animals on the island, but also were the boat and the waves.
Mann, who has a diverse background in theater, movement and mask-making and has worked extensively with schoolchildren, did weeklong workshops with each of the School Union 69 schools, with Appleton the final one. She said drama gives children skills they can incorporate in daily life, such as working in a group, accepting each others' ideas, and developing confidence and self-esteem.
Third-grade teacher Morin said some of her students who are usually shy took part even though they were nervous about it, and they had fun.
Mann added that the students “had a blast” developing their performances. She said they were excited by the chance to be creative every day for a week. For her part, Mann said she enjoyed the children's energy, ideas, enthusiasm and willingness to take risks.
“Everybody participated 150 percent,” she said.