Playwriting

Trust Your Students

One of my favourite things about going to conferences is meeting teachers and students and hearing how they use our work in the classroom and better still, how they encourage their students do create original work. I love student written plays. At the FATE conference last weekend I had a conversation with a teacher who this year will be producing 9 original works. I knew we had to share that with you and share some thoughts on how to make original plays happen in your school.

Transcript

 Lindsay: Hi! This is Lindsay and we’re here at the FATE conference, the Florida Assocaition of Theatre Educators, and the wonderful thing about coming to conferences is that we’re always in conversation with teachers, with students, where we learn something and we’re like, “We gotta do a tape. We gotta share this.” And we have such a person right here. This is Samantha.

Samantha, where do you teach?

Samantha: I teach at Port St. Lucie High School – St. Lucie West Centennial to be exact.

Lindsay: Uh-huh, very exact.

And what you and I were having a conversation about is how you use original works. How many original plays do you do a year?

Samantha: Wow! Well, I started last year, first year, and we did three original plays in my first year of teaching.

Lindsay: See?

Samantha: This year, we’re doing nine.

Lindsay: Nine! See? I find that amazing! And who writes the plays?

Samantha: My students, sometimes the whole class, and now, actually me. So, it’s actually gotten me to write. I wrote an entire full-length because of my students.

Lindsay: Your whole program is basically just working together, every one of the students are working together to get original works done.

Samantha: Sometimes, yes.

Lindsay: What was your impetus? Why are you going original?

Samantha: Honestly, because I want to see fresh, something different, something new. I wanted the kids to be involved, and I saw that, when we had input, it was so much better and the people appreciate that. And I don’t want to keep doing the same old stuff. Here, everyone’s doing Seussical?.

Lindsay: Right.

Samantha: I’m like, “I don’t want to do Seussical?. I don’t want to pay 3000 dollars to do Seussical?. I want to do my own show! I want to use the strengths of my students because I have stage fighters, let’s put in a stage fight! If I’ve got kids that can really sing, let’s put in a song right there.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Samantha: Built to our strength.

Lindsay: In that way, you’re improving their communication skills.

Samantha: Exactly!

Lindsay: Their self-confidence skills.

Samantha: Exactly!

Lindsay: Their self-expression skills by what they know and then taking it further.

Samantha: Exactly! And each play is different. Like, one play last year, my children’s play, I actually looked at my sets and it’s like, “This is what I have. These are the costumes I have. Write something around that.” And the kid did it!

Lindsay: And that’s the way to use, you know, use what you’ve got and go further.

Samantha: Exactly! Then this year, for example, I had a class and there was this one very special kid and he had a very special seat so we built the entire show around him.

Lindsay: Love that.

Samantha: So, you know, you just take what you’ve got and you say, “What’s the best asset I have?” and you work around it.

Lindsay: What kind of themes do you, have you, did you write on?

Samantha: Ooh! We’ve done everything. We’ve done purgatory.

Lindsay: Yes.

Samantha: It’s heaven and hell, in-between.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Samantha: Now, this is a kid that was really talented and just needed someone to say, “Go for it!”

Lindsay: Go do it.

Samantha: Yeah. He’d been in a program for three years and no one ever said, “You can do it.” So, we published him, we took him to state, he got District’s Choice, and he killed it.

Lindsay: That’s wonderful!

Samantha: You know, and so, after he came out then all these other kids came out.

Lindsay: “I can do it! I can do it!”

Samantha: “I’ve got this idea!” and “What if I?”

Lindsay: Okay. So, this is one of my favourite things, well, you know, my big thing is I want students to write, every student can write a play.

Samantha: Yes.

Lindsay: I love original works. A lot of the stuff that we did at Theatrefolk is because a teacher has done something original and passed it on and those are some of my favourite plays.

So, what would be your number one piece of advice for a school? You’ve got a teacher who wants to do an original work. To make it happen, what is your one piece of advice?

Samantha: Trust.

Lindsay: Just let them do it.

Samantha: Trust, and trust the kids. Like with Special Dave from the last show I just did, it wasn’t supposed to be anything. It was supposed to be combination of monologues and scenes. It became this great one-act.

Lindsay: And to let it happen.

Samantha: Trust the kids. This kid’s like, “Oh! I want to play the Hispanic father,” and “I know what I’ll…” “Oh! That’s perfect!” And they just kind of did it themselves and we just put it together and it worked. And you just trust!

Lindsay: Awesome.

Samantha: They trust you, you trust them, and you go with the big idea.

Lindsay: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much!

Samantha: Yey!

Lindsay: All right, thanks guys!

Samantha: Bye!

About the author

Lindsay Price