In October, DTC’s Education and Production departments teamed up to provide a three-day, all-school workshop for the School for the Talented and Gifted (TAG) at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center. TAG’s annual TREK focuses on one of four subject areas (science, humanities, arts, and math) and this was the first time the school opted to partner with an outside organization to create a completely immersive experience. The 260 students weren’t told until days before where their 2013 TREK would be. They were, however, asked to read Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun in their English Language Arts classes (surprisingly, no one caught on to where they were headed for their TREK!).
On October 7th, students and teachers arrived by the bus loads to the Wyly Theatre where they were greeted by Artistic Director, Kevin Moriarty. They then rotated in smaller groups throughout the building taking a variety of master classes taught by DTC staff. Topics included: lighting design taught by Master Electrician, Aaron Johansen; sound design taught by Sound Mixer (A1), Jonathan “Batman” Hill; props/set design taught by Properties Master, John Slauson; directing taught by Brierley Resident Acting Company Member and Master Teacher, Christie Vela; playwriting/devising taught by Manager of Education Programs, Mara Richards; acting taught by Director of Education and Community Enrichment, Rachel Hull; stage management taught by Production Stage Manager, Eric Tysinger; and marketing taught by Customer Service Manager, Collin Duwe.
Armed with these crash-course experiences, students chose the area of theater-making they would like to focus on for the remainder of their TREK (stage management, design, acting, etc.). They were then placed in production groups of roughly 15 students each and were tasked, as a group, with creating a fully produced, five-minute response performance to the text of A Raisin in the Sun. No small task!
On the second day of the TREK experience the student production groups were spread throughout the Wyly Theatre and the Winspear Opera House to spend the day creating. DTC teaching artists helped guide the students throughout the day, asking challenging questions and pushing them to think creatively. By the time students boarded the buses at the end of the day, they had written scripts, made design choices, staged their response and began the creation of marketing materials to support their vision.
After working on their own into the wee hours, students arrived on the last day of TREK with final scripts, lighting cue sheets, sound cue sheets and marketing collateral in-hand. They were able to get in one last rehearsal of their performance before attending the student matinee of DTC’s production of A Raisin in the Sun. It was the first time any of the students (and many of the teachers) had seen the play performed. Following a quick lunch, each of the production groups presented their culminating response piece with the student stage managers, lighting designers and sound designers helping DTC staff to run the shows.
The event was transformative for both TAG and DTC. As the school’s principal, Benjamin Mackey, said in closing remarks, students and teachers learned how many people it takes to put on a show and how truly collaborative theater-making is. He also said the bar had been set exceptionally high for all TREKs moving forward (a sentiment shared by students and teachers alike). For us at DTC, it was the first time the Education and Production departments had worked closely together on such a large scale project. We learned that facilitating a learning experience on this scale is not only inspiring for the young people involved, but is also extremely rewarding for us. We got to know each other better and learn about our unique contributions to DTC. We also had the pleasure of watching students discover for themselves the power of theater and the joys of creating it.