Playmaking Round Two
"Adventurous theater in Astoria"

-- The New York Times

Playmaking Round Two

On Thursday, a second group of Middle Schoolers from IS-10 will see the plays they created through Astoria Playmaking come to life onstage with the help of some professional actors and directors.  Susan Willerman, who is the force behind this great program, wanted to share some of her perspectives on this session of Astoria Playmaking.


In late January, Crystal Skillman, who is my assistant and who brings great talent and skill to our program as a teacher and playwright, wrote a blog about our Playmaking Program at APAC. She described what we do and the significance for the students who work with us, who express their hopes and fears through the metaphors they imagine and who grow leaps and bounds from the experience of creating four characters and writing a play. What begins as a daydream from the deepest parts of the imagination becomes a full fledged piece of work to share with theatre artists and ultimately an audience.

Susan in front of her students

Susan in front of her students

It was another brutally cold day with morning snow showers when we started our second round of Playmaking on February 28. But in our room at IS 10, it was warm and cosy and grew increasingly so with the energy, eagerness and creativity of the new 6th, 7th and 8th grade students who had signed up to write a brand new play. When asked why people write plays, among the many reasons they gave was “it’s fun!” And it was.

Here are some moments from this particular six week session.

Each day of the Playmaking program has the students doing some acting activities and some writing. During our first class, the students created animal characters and then all of us interviewed these characters. We met an Owl named Snow who wanted to explore the forest against her parents wishes.  Day 2 brought inanimate objects into life; we met a Pencil named Jeff who was afraid of being cracked, a moonstone named Moon Light who brought luck to her owner and whose fear was to fall down, be broken into pieces and thrown away, and a pair of scissors who was also afraid of becoming useless and tossed out. Day 3, Nature characters came into being: A Fog and Water were two. Finally the students created Human Being characters, being cautioned to make them up!

All along, Crystal and I gave students both improvisational skills to illustrate the importance of need, conflict and action, and writing activities to put their new skills into being on paper.

notebookRelief! No more snow days to interrupt our work as had happened in January and February three times! And the joy of watching the sky turn pink from our 3rd floor window was something to share and also relevant as we constantly asked for sensory details and descriptions. Our own view was an example.

One of our activities is an imaginary “Trip to the Beach” with a visiting aunt or uncle. We contact all the senses…the heat of a summer day, the feel of a tarred parking lot on our feet and the sound of dogs barking on the beach. When asked about what they chose to eat for lunch, one girl talked about the spinach pie her aunt makes and she could taste that!  That was a first for me; usually we eat chicken, barbeque or sandwiches.

Group of Actors from Playmaking 2012

Group of Actors from Playmaking 2012

It’s now April 4 and the students’ plays are typed and ready for the rehearsal tomorrow and for the performance Thursday, April 10 at 6:00. Come and see if Snow, Jeff and the other characters I have mentioned were given life in the young playwright’s plays! We guarantee you a most unique experience of theatre. You will see plays with great originality, performed by professional actors who put their hearts and souls into them and directed by committed directors who understand that they have the hopes and fears of tender hearted young people in their hands.

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