Children’s Theatre Workshop to stage student-developed playWritten by Chase Will | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In its 60th season, the Children’s Theatre Workshop (CTW) at the Collingwood Arts Center begins a new technique in which 9- to 12-year-old students devise their own plays.
Their premiere effort, “The Gibler Family,” is about a girl named Natalie who discovers the joys of punk rock after struggling to find what she’s good at. Natalie becomes a YouTube music sensation, which leads to a record company offering her an audition. Her father, however, is straight-laced anti-rock, and she’s challenged to keep her punk rock dreams alive.
Everything from concept to characterization to plotting is the work of CTW students. Much like in the writers’ rooms for network television, the students work in a collaborative atmosphere where they learn to not only pitch their ideas but also advocate them.
“It gets them used to the idea that art is a group process, not necessarily a single genius mind in a corner. It’s lots of geniuses yelling over each other,” said Aimee Reid, artistic director at CTW.
As the students improvise lines and experiment with different plots, Reid writes down their notes and synthesizes them into a script, which she reads through with the students and rewrites after getting a list of what to keep and what to edit.
“The Gibler Family” is open to the public 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Dec. 13-14. Tickets are $8/adults and $6/students.
CTW also has a program called Teen Company for seventh through 12th graders. Each year these students put on a comedic play and a drama based on social issues. Last year they put on “Eat! It’s Not About Food” by Linda Daugherty, a play discussing issues of body image and teen eating disorders. This season, Teen Company will put on “The Locker Next 2 Mine” by Jonathan Dorf.
This play is about a young girl who transfers to a school halfway through her junior year and discovers the locker beside hers commemorates a student who had committed suicide the previous year. No one will talk about the teen’s death, however, which only leads to other problems for students struggling to understand depression and suicide.
“The play is kind of ‘if you won’t talk about it, it’s going to keep happening and it’s not going to get better,’” Reid said.
To prepare his students for this play, director Pat Mahood invites discussion about the weighty material.
“Right from the get-go, the students know exactly what they’re getting into,” Mahood said. “These are the subject matters, and they’re done in a very tasteful way. All the kids are excited about it because every one of them, if they’re not currently depressed, have felt that way, or alone, or isolated. These are real feelings, and they’re excited to explore them.”
Reid stated these social issue plays are important in helping students separate opinions from facts, clearing up many misconceptions about the causes of depression and other troubles.
“Even with all this social media and staying connected, people are feeling increasingly isolated. With a play like this, it lets students know they’re not alone,” Reid said.
“The Locker Next 2 Mine” will premiere at the Collingwood Arts Center Feb. 27-28.
For more information on CTW’s curriculum and programs offered to aspiring students, visit www.ctwtoledo.org.