Writing A Play 'Scary But Fun'

Schoolchildren Create Their Own Worksas Actors Lead Sessions

April 05, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

It isn't quite the same as playing Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl," but Kimberly Preshoot has some thoughts about the emotional impact of portraying a tree/noisemaker in "Adventures in Fairyland."

"Watching everyone, I was like, I can't believe I'm doing this," said Kimberly,11, a fifth-grader at Bryant Woods Elementary School. "It was scary,but it was fun."

Kimberly was onstage being a tree and waving a Totally Tubular plastic toy to make the sound of wind in the woods at her school in Columbia's Wilde Lake Village last week. Her class and other fifth-and second-grade classes at the school wrote and produced their own plays in four days of workshops led by professional actors.

The studentslearned how to become a character and how to walk and talk like someone else. They wrote possible endings for a play that the two actors performed for all students at the school and then they wrote their own plays.

The idea is not to produce polished performances, said actor Sean Layne of InterAct Story Theatre, based in Silver Spring. "It's really geared toward critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills that lead up to a performance."

It was also geared to seeing the possibilities in ordinary things. Layne gave the three fifth-grade classes three props: a glass bowl, a spoon and a pot.

One class transformed the bowl into a protective mask to ward off the evil gaze of a warlock. Another made it a glass slipper. The spoon became a key, a stick figure and a wand.

Layne gave each class a scenario: a group of campers in the woods hears a voice telling them to use thethree props. "They made up everything from there," he said.

In "Adventures In Fairyland," a regal character named Warlock Too Cool enlists the campers to rescue his elves, who have been taken captive by trolls.

Hasan Fahmy, 11, whose class wrote a play called "8 LittleCampers and the Big Bad Witch," described the creative process: "We had to yell out ideas, and then Sean would make it play together."

The story that emerged told of a wicked witch who locked up an elf and turned him into a stick person (represented by the spoon) for stealing berries from her garden.

The elf sought help from the campers, who according to the script were to capture the witch by tossing a net (the pot) over her head. A slip in the application of the net knocked the witch's multicolored wig to the stage, one of those moments every actor dreads. But witch Diana Fooksman, 10, recovered like a trouper -- she grabbed the wig and scurried into the cave where she replaced the newly freed elf.

The Bryant Woods PTA picked up $1,000 of the InterAct program's $1,845 cost. The remaining costs were covered by a $645 grant from the county Arts Council and a $200 grant to InterAct from Maryland Artists in Education.

Arts Council President Mary Toth said the artist residency program gives students an understanding of how art comes into being.

"Many of the children here will see artistic events, because the county is so affluent," she said. "We want them to be exposed to the process. How do you write a play, make a pot, how do you do that?"

Nancy Hoffman, who chairs the Bryant Woods PTA cultural affairs committee, said the organization's representatives learned about the story theater at an arts council showcase three years ago and sponsored it for second- and third-graders last year.

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