All the World’s a Stage

Truly progressive education recognizes the value in allowing students the time and resources to pursue their passions. Meaningful learning happens when children are given the opportunity to self-select their own pursuits. This is the learning that children remember. They are invested in the outcome because they care about the premise. Today, we saw a beautiful example of meaningful learning in action here at Parker. Parker had the privilege of hosting the world premiere of Jake and the Spooky House , an original play written by Devi Kumar (3rd grade) and Isabella (Izzy) Brooks (2nd grade). This play began as a student-led initiative during Lynn’s 2-3 Writing Workshop. The girls worked together to write the play, and the class unified around them to support making it a reality. For the past month, students have been rehearsing, collaborating, and creating to turn this idea into a production. Lynn described their work affectionately, saying “This is the dream for both educator and student alike—being struck by a bolt of creativity and having the autonomy to take a project from beginning to end. A child-centered environment welcomes this student created project and aims to facilitate a showing of the work in the community in some way.” Here at Parker, we believe we can say it best when we let students and educators speak for themselves. So, without further adieu, please read on to hear more about the process of staging this production from the playwrights themselves, in their own words…
What gave you the idea to write a play? Devi: “We were in writing workshop, and all of my friends were working on other things with other friends, so I just decided to write a script. Then I thought of the idea to make it into a play that we could perform.”Izzy: “Devi asked me that day if I wanted to be in her play, and I said ‘Maybe, I’ll think about it.’ But then, a few days later, I actually thought it was a really good idea so I joined in and helped her work on it.”
How did you get the idea for the play? Devi: “Well, I like scary things but I don’t like to be scared forever. I like to be scared for like a second and then forget about it, but that’s not really the way it ever goes. So I just wanted to do a play where people play some scary parts but then everything gets better quickly.”
Can you tell me about your process of working on the play?
Devi: “We worked on it a LOT. There were some parts that didn’t make sense, and we fixed most of them to act like they would make sense. ”Izzy: “At first I was the narrator, and I was just really saying things like, “He said,” and “She said,” but then we realized that didn’t really make sense, so we changed how it was written so it wasn’t so broken up. Also, at some point Devi decided she wanted to have a part since it was her own play, so we compromised and I let her be the narrator.” Devi: “I came up with a bunch of names for the characters and then I decided who was going to be who. We started practicing just at our tables, and then we practiced in the classroom with no props, and now we’re practicing in the gym with props.” Izzy: “Anderson is in charge of the lights, Eli does the door shutting with blocks. Caona is our director’s assistant, so she’s helping us a lot —  she’s doing an awesome job.”
What has been your biggest struggle in working on your play? Izzy: “As a director, it is sometimes hard to try and get people to do the things that you want them to do. Like one person gets all those people together.”Devi: “My biggest struggle has been getting people to be quiet behind stage, getting people where they need to be, getting people changing into their costumes really quickly. I’ve been kind of yelling at people, and I don’t think that’s a good idea at all. You should stay calm, but still direct. When I yell, everybody gets mad at me, so it doesn’t really do anything — but when I stay calm people listen and do what I want.”
What do you think it will be like performing for an audience? Devi: “I haven’t had that much experience with plays, but I really think this is going to be a great experience for all of the class and a really good play. It will seem a little bit scary, but I think it’s going to be awesome.”Izzy: “Totally! Everybody gets to have a part, everybody has costumes, and everyone is having fun!”