For the last year, primary teacher Maria Mosby has hosted special drama workshops for her students at The New Century School. Young children are especially keen for experiences that challenge and inspire them in an interactive way, and theatre provides the ideal arena for such activities. Importantly, being on or behind stage also allows children free rein to be creative and to express themselves.
A Year of Acting Out
So, while she was in teacher training, Ms. Mosby met a drama teacher and actor named John Waldron who also teaches preschool and lower elementary children, and they have remained friends in the succeeding years. Last June, Mr. Waldron offered to come to TNCS and do one of his classes as a fun, end-of-year activity for Ms. Mosby’s students. “It lasted over an hour because they were so intrigued,” said Ms. Mosby. “So we decided to invite him back this year to do quarterly classes with the children.”
For the 2018–2019 school year, the quarterly classes expanded to include all primary students, and their enthusiasm for Mr. Waldron’s drama class has not flagged! Says Ms. Mosby: “The children love it! The warm-ups, improvisational games, and opportunities to not only act out stories but also express their creativity really keeps them involved. There is no need to say, ‘Please sit still and pay attention to the presentation.’ They usually ask for more.”
According to his bio, “[Mr. Waldron] specializes and trains in improvisational theatre. The games and activities he includes in his workshops help promote active listening, creativity, team building, and social interaction.”
Although drama/theatre does not a specific connection to the Montessori method per se, it’s a logical fit. “Dr. Montessori did encourage children to use their own imaginations (once they had a solid foundation in reality) to create,” explained Ms. Mosby. “This is what the children are doing in a way.” She also explained that Dr. Montessori observed that children’s creativity and self-expression seems to blossom around the age of 6 or 7 years. However, it’s clear that even the youngest TNCS primary students were fully engaged in Mr. Waldon’s classes. He does capture an audience! And that’s no surprise, given his background. He earned a BFA in theatre from Virginia Commonwealth University and has been involved in teaching, directing, and performing for over 20 years. He currently teaches drama to lower elementary students at a Montessori school in Falls Church, VA. He also teaches students through high school age as well as adults.
For the culminating class that happened May 28th, Mr. Waldron pulled out all the stops. The students performed a play, sang songs, danced, and “wrote” their own play. Ms. Mosby said she especially enjoyed this one. “This presentation was something new that I hadn’t seen him do before, and I am always impressed with how he captures the children’s attention and cooperation without really any need for assistance from me or any disciplinary tactics,” she said.
The play they performed was “The Sixteen Little Pigs,” and if that sounds familiar, it’s because instead of limiting it to 3, each student got to be one of the house-builders in the classic tale.
Guess who played the wolf, to much audience appreciation?
But they liked him crying even better!
In a plot twist, however, empathy and compassion win the day, and everybody gets their “just desserts.”
Sorry, for this next one we have no words . . .
Why did the wolf get a happy ending, again?
Then it was fun-on-stage time!
In “Emotional Orchestra,” a small group each represented “happy,” “sad,” and “surprised.” When pointed to or called on, the group acted out their emotion.
In the student-created play, the children made up stories by each adding a line, after which Mr. Waldron acted out the story the children put together.
TNCS primary students were truly fortunate to have had this experience. Mr. Waldron has worked with students from ages 3 to 93. His has performed at the International Theatre Festival in Sibiu, Romania with Classika/Synetic Theatre, the Kennedy Center, and National Theatre. He has also performed at Wolf Trap for the International Children’s Theatre. “These experiences have helped him form a unique approach to introducing young performers to theatre and acting,” his bio states
In the near future, Ms. Mosby reports that Mr. Waldron may soon be directing Maria Montessori, the Musical. We won’t want to miss that—hopefully it’s a traveling show!
For TNCS specifically, Ms. Mosby approached the upper elementary and middle school teachers about possibly doing some Latin and Shakespearean plays next year. Mr. Waldron also holds regular classes at the Little Theatre of Alexandria as well summer camps for 3rd- through 8th-graders. This year’s lineup in include Skits A Rama, Heroes and Villains, Mystery Improv: WhoDunnit?!, Improv-alooza, Screen to Stage, and Mythological Madness.