Olney Theatre Center's Arts Integration Program grew organically from a partnership with a single area school in the 2012-13 school year. Since then, the program has grown rapidly, and in the current school year we are working with 16 classes in 7 schools.
The collaborative playwriting program is designed to capitalize on theatre as a collaborative artform by providing students opportunities to expand their 21st century skills, often described as the four C's: Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Creativity. We target fifth-grade classrooms, but we have successfully modified the program for both older and younger students.
The program usually begins in the fall, when OTC's education team introduces key concepts of ensemble improvisation and theatre, while reinforcing other curricular content. Students also take a field trip to OTC to see theatre concepts in professional practice. As the program progresses, students actively collaborating in small groups to write and revise their original scripts.
In the final phase of the program, students learn basic staging concepts and refine their work during in-classroom rehearsals. Student groups collaborate not only in the writing of the play, but also in choosing/creating the costumes, props, and set pieces necessary for the productions. Finally, in May, students will travel to OTC to perform their original productions on our Historic Stage.
Through the processes of script development and rehearsal, children can learn generosity, flexible cognition, problem solving, memorization, and commitment. Participating in a theatrical endeavor also provides kids an opportunity to explore the world through a different person's point of view, which encourages empathy. Even if performing is not a child's "thing," there is much to be gained. Since the program is process-driven, all students, even those who aren't natural performers, reap the program's benefits.