BEF funded the purchase of tickets and bus transportation to enable two Council Rock classes to attend the performance of a children's play at the Geva Theatre Center. An opportunity to meet the actors and take a backstage tour made this an unforgettable experience for 45 students.
This field trip was proposed by Debra Hildebrand and Laura Abbett, Council Rock teachers who had taught these classes for both first and second grades. These classes stage "informances" throughout the year for parents and friends. At the end of each major unit of study the students perform plays, poems, and songs that relate to the subject matter.
The children memorize their parts for these productions, and help work out the details of staging, costuming, and timing. This work incorporates many aspects of the New York State Learning Standards:
The teachers proposed that their students attend a children's play at Geva Theatre, performed by a nationally-recognized children's theater company as a culminating event in second grade. The play they chose was Panadero: The Baker's Tale, written by José Cruz González and produced by Childsplay, a theater company based in Tempe, Arizona.
Panadero: The Baker's Tale is the story of a small Latino boy named Pepito who lives with his family in the United States. Pepito's grandmother fled to the US from Guatemala to escape a harsh military dictatorship. Pepito and his grandmother -- his abuela -- have a close relationship filled with hours of storytelling of her Central American homeland. When his grandmother dies, Pepito mourns her in his own way: with a wonderful dream adventure. The dream gives him the insight and energy to take up his grandmother's dream of making the neighborhood -- his barrio -- more beautiful, and to create a new home in a new country while preserving the memory and love of the old. The play is performed by three actors and puppets, amidst beautiful sets and intricate puppet-props that support the action.
The themes of the play relate to the district's social studies curriculum and core values. The playwright is a Mexican-American who loves to incorporate Spanish words and phrases into his scripts. The use of Spanish and English together adds to the authenticity of the play, and allows a young audience to discover new words in a very natural way.
In addition to attending the play, the students enjoyed a question-and-answer session with the performers and an amazing backstage tour. One of Mrs. Hildebrand's students is Connor Greer, whose father is Skip Greer, the Director of Education at Geva; his mother is actress Bridgitt Markusfeld. They and two other Geva staffers gave the classes a top-to-bottom tour of the theater:
Thanks to the inspiration provided by their teachers and augmented by this experience, there is no question that these young people will have a lifelong relationship with the theater in general and with Geva in particular.
story and photos by Jim Kane
May 26, 2003