By Cristina Byrne, YPL Teaching Artist
I did the happy dance when Mary Wright, the Coordinator of Touchstone Theatre’s Young Playwrights Lab, asked me to be a Teacher Artist this year. I knew I was going to contribute to the children of our future in a positive and creative way by helping them express and find their voice through storytelling, by exploring their wildest imaginations – “Yes, of course I will!” was my proposal answer.
And who knows? Maybe the next Lin-Manuel Miranda is in the making.
I was assisting Ms. Emma, a Teaching Artist Veteran, at Bethlehem’s Donegan Elementary, with the help of Ms. Meara, a 10th grade intern from Charter Arts High School.
The very first day of class, Cristian sees my name tag; he smiles and says, “We have the same name.”
I smiled back, “We do.”
I then pointed out the order of the letters n and a are the “only difference.”
The kids even questioned if Ms. Emma, Ms. Meara and I were related.
“So, are you like sisters or something?” they would ask.
“Nope,” one of us replied.
“Are you sure?” doubtfully asking again. Our dark hair, fair skin, and *cough cough* coolness had them fooled.
For eight weeks, we were exploring all aspects of storytelling and we were finding ourselves in endless possibilities of settings, characters, conflicts, and resolutions.
As the weeks went by, we incorporated new warm up games, such as running in circles (with the surprise that the grown ups outran the 4th graders), and I standing with my hand as high as possible to see who can give me a really high five.
At one point they were saying, “Go higher! Go higher!”
“I can’t go any higher!” I told them “This is as tall as I am.”
“On your tippy toes!” they would shout back.
Jo Hann, Akim, and Jamie have found themselves making up some sort of dragon game that Ms. Emma, the good sport that she is, went along with it while the rest of us stood standing around trying to figure out how this game was played.
Their ideas were there and some days it was a struggle to get it on paper but with a little bit of a theatre performance their eyes lite up as they saw their stories come to life. They got to the point where they asked if they could keep writing.
As I wrapped up Young Playwrights Lab, I reflected on the eight weeks of 4th grade, theatre, writing, and being a teacher artist.
Not only was I helping the future generation find a voice but they were helping me. I was gaining a different perspective of the 4th grade; I was now on the other side of it.
“Which one of these 4th graders were me?” I kept asking myself and to my surprise I found my self in each and every one of them.
They were a consistent reminder that anything can happen in story, perspective is everything, always warm up before you start, snack time is a must, and always remember to have fun!
The future is in the hands of programs such as YPL, because it will imagine, create, and inspire.