Published for the Arts Based School Community
Oct 21, 2021
How We Do It and Why
By Mary Siebert
“In a live performance, it's a collaboration with the audience; you ride the ebb and flow of the crowd's energy. On television, you don't have that.” - Jon Batiste
This week we celebrate our twentieth year of student productions, and our first audience-attended performance since March of 2019. After a year and a half of Zoom performances, it is a great relief and a joy to see our students perform for audiences of parents, live and in-person.
Second graders have been performing the Liberian children’s story The Cowtail Switch through a “story theater” presentation that involves storytelling by a narrator, with inserted movement and occasional lines, many of them improvised, by the actors. Our guest artists, African dancer Dawanna Benjamin and African drummer Allen Boyd, lead the students through some spectacular dance and drumming displays that also enhance the story. “Miss Dawanna” has been visiting dance class over the past few weeks, and dances with the students during the performance, so they have her anchor of expertise to help them move. As a startlingly beautiful treat at the end, while the students head back to the classroom, Dawanna performs solo for a few moments with Mr. Boyd drumming, supported by our own Mrs. B. on the dununs.
Each production requires about six weeks of work, with classroom teachers, arts specialists, and visiting artists all collaborating. Complex schedules are woven together and communicated out to administrators, receptionists, speech therapists, counselors, and interventionists to keep all learning flowing and to accommodate all the action. Parents pitch in, avoiding scheduling dental appointments or vacations during critical rehearsal weeks, helping with costumes, helping move platforms and props from place to place. We want everyone to feel excited, polished, and prepared when the big day arrives.
This week’s second grade actors have not performed live at school since February of 2019. For them, the excitement and nerves of performing, even for our limited audience of two audience members per child, was a fresh learning opportunity. Once they’ve been through these years with us, they’ll know how to manage the jitters and ace those college and job interviews!
Our very first performance, twenty years ago, was A Midsummer Night’s Dream with third graders. They were, at the time, the oldest students in the school, and there were fifteen of them. I was their teacher, and noticed that the very characters from Shakespeare’s play already inhabited my classroom. I had Puck-like tricksters, fairy-like sprites, kids with royal presence, and others with rustic energy. We tumbled together through the hilarity and discipline and emotional risk-taking of rehearsing. We included smaller children who appeared as little fairies who sang at the end, and second graders who stepped in where we were short of cast members. There was much shimmery, rich, unforgettable learning along the way.
Of course the sets tipped over. Of course there were schedule problems. Of course we were sad when it was over. It was enormous fun, and a lot of work, and when we were done those kids owned Shakespeare.
Some memorable highlights since then:
An all-school performance of the opera Barefoot, with 150 students in the cast, based on a children’s book which is told from the perspective of marsh creatures, with illustrations from the ankles down. It tells about a young man escaping slavery who is helped along the way by fireflies, mosquitoes, and other creatures of the marsh, pursued by “heavy boots,” escaping with the help of a home along the railway. Guest singer Chase Taylor played Barefoot, and has since sung at the Metropolitan Opera.
A celebration of Caribbean culture, again with the entire school, where parents rotated from room to room, to see mini performances of songs and story theater at each grade level. That’s when we learned not to have kindergarten students perform in the evening. A bunch of them fell asleep!
There was the year when the Romeo & Juliet dress rehearsal was canceled because of a storm. We rescheduled. On the day of the show, a lead performer was home sick, and another 5th grader quickly learned all of his lines and stage combat. Then we went back to the theater, and the power failed at the theater. We all went home. When we finally performed, the first student was back in action, and there were two performances...he did one, his stand-in did the other.
There was the unforgettable time when our students were performing the opera Brundibár , which had been performed by children in the concentration camp of Terezín during World War II. Most of the children in the 50 performances at Terezín were transported to Auschwitz, where they perished. One survivor, by this time in her 70s, visited our school and met our performers. She stood, grabbed their hands, and sang the Victory Song at the end with them, in Czech.
We feel pretty victorious ourselves, now that we are back on stage with our students. It was a long time away, but we’re enriched by our time in person with them, as we continue our tradition of a big show at every grade level, every year.
Say Something Tip Line and Training
State law (G.S. 115C-105.51) requires public secondary schools (grades 6 and up) to have an anonymous safety tip application available for public safety tips from students and others. The Say Something Anonymous Reporting System (SS-ARS) is a life-saving school safety program that teaches students, educators, and administrators how to recognize the warning signs for individuals who may be at risk of hurting themselves or others and to report this information by going to a trusted adult, calling 911, or using the anonymous reporting system. Our students in grades 6-8 will receive “Say Something” training in his/her classroom during the first weeks of November.
There are five steps to SS-ARS process:
- A tip is submitted via mobile app, website, or by calling the 24/7 Crisis Center by the tipster.
- The submitted tip is triaged by Crisis Center certified counselors to gather enough information to act.
- The tip is then delivered via call, text, and email to the impacted school and 911 dispatch – if needed.
- The school and local law enforcement (as needed) assess and take action with the at-risk individuals.
- School personnel then close out the tip and report actions taken as a record for their school.
Scholastic Book Fair: Monday 10/18 - Friday 10/22- one more day to shop!
There is one more day to shop our in-person book fair- tomorrow from 9am-3:30pm.
Please consider purchasing a book for your child’s classroom library. You can purchase a book from the classroom wish list display boards located at the fair or make a donation to your teacher's eWallet account so they can purchase directly! (If your teacher has not already shared their eWallet link with the class, please ask them for it.)
In-person shopping: Monday 10/18- Friday 10/22
- Family shopping hours: 9am-3:30pm Mon-Fri
- Classes Preview Mon/Tues and shop Wed-Fri
- ABS earns 50% of sales for classroom/school libraries
- Pay with cash, credit, checks payable to ABS, and eWallet*- with no tax added
Online shopping: Monday 10/18- Sunday 10/31
- All orders ship home and book-only orders over $25 ship for free!
- ABS earns 25% of sales for classroom/school libraries
- Alternative shopping option if you can’t make it in-person, or if you’d like to purchase a title that is not in stock at our fair.
*Our Book Fair offers eWallet, a safe and secure alternative to cash. Simply create a free account to add funds and/or invite family and friends to contribute so your child can select their own books. Any unused funds can be spent at The Scholastic Store Online or to fund a future eWallet.
Visit our Book Fair Homepage to shop online and create an eWallet account. https://www.scholastic.com/bf/artsbasedschool
ABS Annual Giving!
There is only one week left in our 20th Anniversary Annual Giving campaign, and we would love to see our participation percentages tick up in this final week!
Your support goes well beyond helping to bridge the gap between what it costs to operate the school and what ABS receives in state and federal funding—your support is also a vote of confidence and an act of goodwill. Please make it a priority to participate if your family is able to make a gift to the school—and our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has already answered the call!
Total School Participation to Date: 29%
Total Gifts to Date: $28,860
To make your gift, please send a check or visit the giving page of our website. Thank you!
Prospective Parent Tours
School tours for prospective parents are scheduled weekly on Thursdays at 9:30am. Each tour is limited to 10 adults in an effort to limit the disruption to our students and teachers in the classrooms. Parents interested in learning more about ABS and how to enroll their child should contact the front office to sign up for a tour: 748-4116 ext 1023. Applications will be accepted beginning January 1. The lottery will be held on the second Tuesday of February.
Love African Dance with Ms. Dawanna? Want it to keep going forever? Here’s your chance to make it last longer! African Dance Classes with Dawanna Benjamin, at UNCSA Acting Out