Thursday, July 1, 2010

A performance of EPIC proportions

All text and photos by: Jen Cowart
Cranston Herald
July 1, 2010

GETTING INTO CHARACTER: Olivia Harding and Arik Beatty introduce students to warm up exercises that are done by Brown University actors to prepare for their theater performances.

Before the EPIC program in Cranston Public Schools came to an end, the students and teachers in the magnet program that meets at Glen Hills Elementary School had a very special event planned.

Having studied Shakespeare during their weekly meetings, reading plays and presenting them to their peers, the students got the chance to have Shakespeare presented to them.

Marie-Elaina DiMaio, an EPIC teacher, explained that the students from the Shakespeare on the Green program at Brown University came to perform for the students, and run some improvisation activities.

As Arik Beatty, Olivia Harding and Carolyn Aker from Brown University, sat with the students from EPIC, they tossed out the names of various Shakespearean works that they liked or didn’t like.

The students from Brown all said they had a very difficult time picking a favorite. However, “Macbeth” and “A Comedy of Errors” came out on the top of the list.

After discussing the works of Shakespeare, Beatty, Harding and Aker put on a mini presentation for the students, acting out several Shakespearean scenes for the students before getting them actively involved in the acting themselves.

Gathering the group in a circle in the back of the room, Beatty, Harding and Aker taught the group five different warm up and improvisational activities.

In the first activity, called King Lear, the students were asked to repeat and emphasize various consonants that the Brown students called out. Next, the group played a more physical game called Head and Shoulders, in which they used parts of their bodies to warm up. A voice warm up followed.

During the improv portion of the activity, the EPIC students were asked to combine both sound and motion, going around the circle mimicking the sound and motion of the person that went before them, until the whole group had gone.

Finally, using a word pulled from “The Tempest,” the students were asked to take the word “mewling” and explore what it’s like to make that sound using their whole bodies.

Because the EPIC program in Cranston Public Schools has been cut from the 2010-2011 school year budget, this culminating project was one of the last projects for the magnet students.

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