Lea Marshall has a ritual.
Between classes every Friday at Leon High School, she stands at the door of her theater classroom and serenades the students with Broadway karaoke. Her drama kids join in, making their own requests, and passersby also get in on the act, belting show tunes from “South Pacific” and “Wicked” as they hustle along to their next class.
“I believe I’m featured in a lot of Snapchats on Fridays,” laughed Marshall who added that people seem compelled to take part in the performance. “Today, there were two footballplayers dancing to ‘Hello Dolly’ in their football jerseys.”
That’s part of the magic of Marshall’s classes, everyone is welcome and everyone has a role to play. At the beginning of the school year, Marshall stresses her philosophy of inclusivity and introduces her instructional methods to students in an engaging way. The advanced theater class is broken into four groups and they work together to answer questions about the course requirements.
They can consult each other and their class syllabus, which takes the form of a playbill.
To keep things interesting, Marshall has conceived of a variety of possible plot twists and students can spin a wheel to take points from another group, add points to their own score, recite a line from Shakespeare, or sing the chorus from a Broadway song. By playing this game, students learn what’s expected of them and that one of those expectations is to create with intention.
Kicking off every class, students stand and state their feelings and intentions, acknowledging their current state of mind and their goals for the hour. “I think it’s really important to speak our intention out loud but then we have to be disciplined enough to do it. That’s also the first thing you need to know before you step on the stage. What is your character feeling and what is their intention in that scene?”
“Theater is about playing a character and bringing in all that character’s experiences. You’re asking what would it be like if that had happened to me. How would I act, how would I feel? You realize that other people have things that they go through that you have no idea about.”
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