Monday, June 15, 2009

No/Low- Budget Drama Clubs

I recently stumbled across an insightful interview with Kevin Maedel, a middle school special education teacher who runs a theatre program for the students in his school on absolutely no budget. His work is exactly in line with what I'm attempting to establish and help flourish right here in New York: a grassroots effort to get kids thinking creatively and expressing themselves in beneficial ways through the medium of theatre.

When asked, "How do you feel about keeping the performing arts intact?", Maedel responded,

"I think it's vital.

It gives them a voice. It helps them find who they are. I have a lot of kids who came to me and were just quiet in the classroom and they just blossom. In drama they become a whole different person. Their confidence gets built. Their social skills, their tolerance and acceptance of other people because in this drama club it's not the popular kids, it's not the best students. It's a whole range of students from special education, regular education, struggling students, the brightest students.

So much of school is, as you know, testing, and it's stripped down to the basics. It's just such a release for them. It's a physical release."

Like myself, Maedel incorporates improvisation and scripted shows to give the kids an optimal opportunity to both create, explore and express themselves while acquiring the discipline demanded of any actor in a full production. We do disagree fundamentally on the successful implementation of a drama program. Maedel says, "
I wish more people did it, but not all people have degrees in theater like me and study directing. That's the thing - you have to be qualified. You can't just do it,". I disagree; at least in part. Certainly, if the main goal is a polished production, experience on both the production and performance ends is necessary, but I strongly feel that simply interacting with the fundamentals of theatre is where the real benefits begin, and a volunteer does NOT need a degree in theatre to use drama as a therapeutic tool to help local kids.

To read the full article by the Daily Bulletin's Sandra Emerson, click here.