Hello SPS Families!
Many people wonder how dramatic arts support a well rounded education. Even the many people who accept dramatic arts as essential can sometimes have a hard time articulating how exactly it ties into a traditional academic education. Yes, it helps with public speaking, literacy, and social dynamics, but the core skill that transcends disciplines into all walks of life is focus. Years ago when I asked a group of students to define focus, it was a six year old who shared the most complete answer I have heard to date:
Focus is where you put your ears, eyes, mind, and heart. Our focus is split now more than ever, with distractions and push notifications seeming to multiply on a daily basis. When is it that we learn how to focus? When we read, we may become absorbed into the world created by the story. When we play sports we keep our eye on the ball. In the dramatic arts, we invest our being into the story the audience witnesses by being present with our fellow actors.
The primary building block of success for a performer is the ability to focus. Just as athletes might spend time in the gym lifting weights in order to prepare for a game but never lift weights during the game, we train our focus as performers by playing games. My approach in this matter is the same whether my students are four or eighty years old. We practice having a shared focus as a group, and working toward the same goal as an ensemble.
In addition to performances and showcases, this year in dramatic arts we will spend time developing our focus tool through games and exercises that will never see the stage. We will learn that, while there are innumerable things outside of our control in any given situation, the one thing that we do have control over is our focus. Our focus is our power, and our ability to dedicate it to a singular objective or split it amongst several things at once can be a choice rather than a compulsion. Once we learn this skill, all other skills immediately become more accessible. We learn that objectives we achieve as a group can be immensely more satisfying than “winning” a game (though competition can be great, too!).
As we enter into this journey of dramatic arts together, please be aware that we are a process oriented program. Performing arts inherently includes performance, but many of our successes and “Aha!” moments will exist in the classroom as ensembles on a path of discovery. Some students will learn the importance of their own perspective and gain the courage to contribute by simply being themselves. Some will learn the value of authentic listening, and how to let go of individual ideas, letting them evolve with the needs and goals of the ensemble. They will learn that together, as we are, we are capable of greater heights than we are as individuals, and that each individual makes those highs possible.
Clayton Pearce, Performing Arts Teacher
Clayton Pearce is a teacher, actor, improviser, songwriter, and chef. He has been working with Spolin Improvisation and Story Theater for 20 years, mentored by Adrienne Flagg, a disciple of Paul Sills, the co-founder of Second City and son of Viola Spolin. Clayton collaborated as a writer, actor, and composer in the Drammy Award winning devised play Note to Self, and, in 2020, debuted a staged reading of Change Order, a play co-written with Adrienne Flagg as part of Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival. He has taught improvisation to children and adults as part of the Brody Theater, Deep End Theater, Portland Theatre Brigade, and numerous other camps and extracurricular classes. In 2017 he taught a workshop as part of the New Zealand Improv Festival where he was nominated for a Really Very Serious Award for Most Generous Player.
Some of Clayton's acting credits include Mortimer Snerd in Fuse Ensemble’s Paradise Park, Uri in Passin Art’s Diva Daughter’s Dupree, and Phillip in Toad City Production’s Max. He has performed in and helped to devise many longform improvisational plays, such as Jason Geary’s Fat City, Deep End Theater’s Presence, and the Brody Theater’s Anon and On and On: Shakespeare from Scratcheth.
Welcome to MYP Performing Arts!
This year, PA will take the form of a hybrid program of Music and Drama and various other performance disciplines. Students will do modules in both music and drama and engage in regular performances of both.
Classes will resemble rehearsals, working towards performance goals that will be showcased quarterly. In their music component, students will be exposed to musical ensembles, soundscapes, electronic music and production, percussion, music theory, choral and vocal ensembles and more,
Through their drama work, students will explore classical and modern theater, physical theater and movement, theatrical voice training, puppetry and stagecraft skills.
We will be looking at the middle school classes as micro-‘production companies’ and we will find where each student fits in to the team to execute our performances, whether it be as a musician, actor, lighting technician or all of the above.
Our first major school production is one of epic proportions. We will be staging a school play involving all students grades 3-8 (100 or so kids a night!)
That production will be a modernized and reimagined version of 3 Shakespeare plays combined into one!
The details below outline the course content and direction for our MYP students. Take note of practice and production dates as we invite all parents and guardians to support our students in this important work.
A Midsummer Night's Dream:
For this production, one class will be double cast as the acting roles (performing 2 separate nights) and the other class will provide musical accompaniment, soundscapes, and (for those who are not as musically inclined and are interested) lighting, sound, prop-mastering and other stagecraft roles.
The show will be performed 4 times in the school gymnasium at 6pm on December 9th, 10th and 11th (including Sunday 3pm matinee).
The show is free but tickets need to be prebooked, news on that to follow soon!
Other important dates to put in calendar ASAP:
December 7th Technical rehearsal 3:30pm-8pm
December 8th Full Dress Rehearsal 3:30pm-8pm
6th will be doing a module on two actor plays, character dichotomy, yin-yang relationships and the double act in theater. This aligns horizontally with their study of the book the Cay in English class, a book about two characters stranded on a deserted island.
They will stage scenes from a selection of canonically significant two-hander plays, namely:
Zoo Story - Edward Albee
True West - Sam Shepherd
Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett
Cowboy Mouth - Sam Shepherd
Athol Fugard - The Island
Harold Pinter - The Dumb Waiter
Tom Stoppard- Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead
These scene studies will be showcased on November 3rd along with 7th and 8th grade.
NIC DAVIES is a director, composer, multi-instrumentalist and educator, originally from South Africa. Nic studied musical theater at the University of Cape Town and relocated to New York City in his early twenties to pursue a career as a musician and theater maker, devising musicals and physical theater pieces and playing in various bands and ensembles. He enjoyed some great success, staging work at famous NYC theaters like the Public Theater and Brooklyn Lyceum, and playing in bands at some of the cities top venues (The Bitter End, Rockwood Music Hall, Pianos) and touring nationally and internationally.
He and his wife relocated to Denver briefly in 2020 where Nic worked as a K-12 music teacher, choir leader and orchestra conductor, and now he is excited to begin the next chapter teaching music and drama at Seven Peaks School.
When not teaching or playing music, Nic enjoys hiking with his two beloved mastiffs Hamlet and Ophelia, and Nic is an avid gardener who finds boundless pleasure in watching things grow.