Glenwood Springs Middle School students find their voice with original theater piece
For the last month, Glenwood Springs Middle School and Voices, a nonprofit founded by local poet Barbara Reese and based out of Carbondale, have been working together to create an original, one-of-a-kind theater project.
Voices began in 2016 with the mission to amplify voices of diverse populations through the arts.
The Voices Project, the flagship program of Voices which started in 2017 at Basalt High School, is a four-week program including two weeks in the classroom writing, creating vignettes, poetry and symbolic movement pieces exploring the theme of change and growth.
Cassidy Willey, a bilingual teaching artist who is directing the project, started working with 45 sixth-grade students in both Traci Wilson’s art class and Lucia Campbell’s English language developer’s class for the student generated project.
According to GSMS ELD teacher Lucia Campbell, she has seen her students gain confidence in their writing through the project’s on-demand and improvised nature of writing exercises. It has also helped to reinforce the notion of writing as a process with a purpose that is first and foremost about generating and sharing ideas.
“It made me want to do it because I like making up things,” GSMS sixth-grader Eleazar Mellian said of the vibrant imagination he brings to the project.
A handful of students self-selected for the commitment to the everyday project and wanted to continue the work outside of the classroom performing on stage.
“We have five really awesome, excited, brave students who are going to take the stage on Saturday with their original work,” Willey said.
The five sixth-graders have spent the last two weeks on the stage after school honing their performances and improvisation.
“My job is just to help make it performance ready, and help to galvanize behind their ideas and their passion and then translate them to the stage,” Willey said.
Titled “Here We Go Again,” the project is based around the theme of change, with all student-generated ideas and themes. Each individual piece of the performance is based on what they are excited about, and what they wanted to do.
“They did a lot of brainstorming about changes they are going through, working with improvisation,” Willey said.
Scenes include a piece about their first day of school, an improv game with changing emotions set in a barber shop, and twins getting lost and acted out in pantomime.
“I really like just being able to interact with others in a performance,” GSMS sixth grader Isabella Waymire said.
The group will give a small preview Friday for their sixth-grade classmates at GSMS, before Saturday’s 6 p.m. performance that is free and open to family, friends and the community at Glenwood Springs Middle School.
“We are all just kind of taking this big creative, emotional leap together and then supporting one another to put all the pieces in place to make the final product,” Willey said.
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