With the holidays approaching and so many amazing things wrapping up here at Theatre Direct, it has truly been an inspiring last couple months.
Two weeks ago, we had Jacqui Russell, the Artistic Director of the Chicago Children’s Theatre, was here at Theatre Direct to work on a special Toronto Initiative of the infamous Red Kite project. The Red Kite project was originally pioneered between the Chicago Children’s Theatre and Oily Cart in the UK to create a theatrical experience for children with autism. Since its incredibly successful inception, a new partnership was forged between The Chicago Children’s Theatre and Theatre Direct so that a Toronto creation could be generated in a week long training and workshop. Upon Jacqui and her colleague Dawn’s arrival there was not a day that passed by that was not inspirational. We learned about children on the autism spectrum, the development that Chicago Children’s Theatre went through creating Red Kite, and some of the amazing sensory based experiences we [the Toronto team] would be creating.
On the Tuesday we were lucky enough to visit the truly exceptional Beverley School and meet with 16 lovely children [with autism spectrum disorder] who would be joining us on the Friday for the performance. I myself have been involved with children in a teaching capacity for about 10 years; however, this was really the first time that I had gotten to watch what it means to facilitate a drama class with a group of children who were all on the autism spectrum. It was magical and challenging and like nothing I have ever been witness to. It was really a unique experience to be witness to Jacqui Russell leading “drama time” with the kids.
The following days were all about creation work amongst the actors, director and designer, and learning the ticks of the trade on the educational front of producing shows for both family and school audiences. The amount of personalization, attention to details, thoughtfulness and really…love that goes into these shows from beginning to end, from the actors to the administrators, is really something extraordinary. Also – an equally surprising part of the week was when we brought a few different test audiences of early years aged children (3 – 5 year olds) and how effective and engaging the piece of theatre was for their age group.
Also here at Theatre Direct, it was the final week of the fall session of our wonderful Wednesday Ensemble that I am lucky enough to teach. The last 9 weeks that we have been together has been full of focus exercises, movement work, tableaus, story writing, story acting, and character creation, which culminated in a lovely short sharing with the friends and families of our participants. In our sharing the members of the ensemble wrote short Cinquain poems based on one of the four seasons, to which they proceeded to choreograph movement, gestures, or frozen poses. After which, they taught the movement to their peers and it was all set to some beautiful music to meld it into one large text/movement piece. They all did such an incredible job and so many personal achievements were met that day, and over the course of our fall session. I am really looking forward to our Winter session together. So, UNTIL THEN!
Melissa Haddad – Metcalf Foundation Education Intern