In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt camped with John Muir in Yosemite. In 2016, Roosevelt and Muir camped again, this time being visited by gnomes! It was our homeschooling play at Davis Wholisitic Learning Resources called The Range of Light. Along with Muir's friend and mentor Jeanne Carr, a poet named Harriet Monroe, and photographer Ansel Adams, Roosevelt and Muir encounter more than the pristine beauty of Yosemite - they meet four young gnomes who call the valley their home.
In our ten-weeks of drama class at Davis WLR, the students experienced the process of putting on and performing a play. When Aristotle compiled the Six Essential Elements of Drama over 2000 years ago (THEME, PLOT, CHARACTERS. DIALOGUE, RHYTHM, and SPECTACLE), he recognized that theater arts is as much about the artistic process as it is about the shared experience of the performance.
The work of producing a dramatic retelling of a story requires reading and memorization, delivery and recitation, collaboration and cooperation, music and singing, art and crafts. In this theatrical medium, skills that are honed in the students in language arts, practical arts, and performing arts are creatively taught and practiced. Additionally, in the eighth grade, the elements of theater such as the script, the cast, and set are introduced so the students can further their appreciation of this age-old craft. The curriculum lives through the play.
On a deeper level, the teacher has the opportunity to meet the child's soul force by thoughtfully giving the child a particular character to portray. Through the character, the teacher is able to individually tailor a lesson for the child, whether the child needs more practice in reading or memorization, or that the child needs to learn some kind of social dynamic, or some underlying truth about him or herself.
After all the practice and the hard work, the play is ready to be performed. The theater arts is meant to be shared and experienced by others, the audience. A relationship is formed in that beautiful moment of a live performance. This is what makes a play so thrilling and raw and powerful. When the play is performed by the children of parents who make up the audience, the pride of the production completes the arc of a school play.
In The Range of Light, Roosevelt, or Teddy Rosebud as the gnomes call him, learn about conservation, the cast sing a song about Yosemite, and we all share in the fun of a class play.