Parent Initiates Statewide Arts Day at Nokomis High School
Parent energy and initiative often bring teaching artists to schools to conduct workshops that supplement and support school arts programs. When invitations to those workshops extend to the community as well an interesting community/school arts link is created. And when the number of workshops reaches a grand scale and the invitation outreach is statewide, something truly newsworthy is going on.
Such a statewide program has been in place for the past two years at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, where Gretchen Gehrke, a Nokomis parent who was inspired by a program at MIT and by the good work of Nokomis theater teacher Lisa Neal, initiated “Nokomis – Lights, Camera, Action!” (LCA) in partnership with the school’s theater program.
Below is the history and description of “Light’s Camera Action!” in Gretchen’s words, as well as Gretchen’s invitation to artists and students, and all those who want to be part of LCA in its third year, to join them in Newport on Thursday, February 21th. Read on!
Nokomis High School is located in rural Maine. Nearly 70% of RSU #19 students qualify for free lunch and yet our school system offers so much to our students.
Lisa Neal is the drama teacher for the high school. She is an exemplary and gifted teacher. She also runs a very successful drama club and show chorus. She is an inclusive leader. Her program changes lives. Here is a recent quote from an email I received from the parent of a now graduated student. “Lisa is an entity all unto herself… We were blessed with so many really good/great teachers for our daughter but Lisa takes that above and beyond.. I saw how she changed lives for our young people.. Literally! I do not know how she does it all.. She is a teacher, a mentor, a confidant, sub parent for many and a friend and it doesn’t stop at school.. or graduation. I see them coming back to her again and again. Our daughter’s class was her first in High School…. And that group of young people have gone on far beyond what they probably would have had it not been for her guidance along the way.. Her classes are so much more than just the subject matter.. Amazing!”
So, how in a rural and poor location do we support a teacher and program such as that directed by Mrs. Neal?
A recent Nokomis Drama Club production of Bye Bye Birdie involved nearly 25% of the Nokomis student body. Lisa does this with little or no budget. As I am, by nature, a facilitator, I saw a possible opportunity to help Lisa provide continued learning adventures for Nokomis students, as well as additional youth from Maine. Our children have been very fortunate to participate in the MIT Splash Program and in Young Americans. Based on those models the Nokomis Drama Club has begun offering a one day Splash-like program, “Nokomis – Lights, Camera, Action!” (LCA), focused on dramatic arts during February break. We charge $25 per K-3 student and $50 for students grades 4-12. This fee includes a T-shirt costume and two meals. We allow for ample financial aid. We ask instructors from near and far away to donate an hour or two of their time and expertise to offer workshop classes like MIT Splash focused on the arts. There are classes during the day preparing songs for an evening performance such as Young Americans do in their program. The goal of this learning adventure and fund-raising effort is a combination of daytime drama workshop followed by an evening performance. We offer more than 50 workshops which support Artists, Actors, Authors, Chefs, and Athletes. One need not be interested in drama to enjoy a great learning adventure. As our local taxpayers, parents and school districts are struggling to such extent, it is critical for our program to seek support resources from outside our own RSU.
As with Splash at MIT, classes can reflect instructor’s passions. We offer a small free parent workshop as they do at MIT/Splash. We plan for a college admissions staff to discuss “College Opportunities in Dramatic Arts.” We also offer art, knitting and yoga classes to parents.
We seek students and instructors from across the State of Maine and beyond. We hope that schools and communities support our novel program. Join us! Please do not exactly copy us.
Join us, Thursday, February 21st, 7:30am-8:00pm at Nokomis Regional High School, located in Newport, Maine for the 3rd Annual, Lights, Camera & Action program.
Actors, Artists, Authors, Athletes, Chefs and Musicians, share a full day of workshops, rehearsals, and performance.
Students K-12 are welcomed and taught by qualified and enthusiastic instructors on a wide variety of fun topics. 2018 included over 50 workshop choices.
Following workshops, Grades K-3 concludes with a noontime performance and Grades 4-12 concludes with a 6:30pm performance “Closing Act” which demonstrates some of the days accomplishments.
“Thank you very much. We cannot believe that a program of this caliber exists in Central, Maine.” -Parent from Brownfield, Maine
“It was such a full day with so many choices. My daughter can’t wait until next year.” – Parent from Pittsfield, Maine
“I learn skills that can help me with my everyday life with building things and every day communication working as a team.” – Maine Central Institute Student
Lisa Neal, drama teacher at Nokomis Regional High School, said the topics help to make learning. “They’re here having fun but what they really don’t know is that they are here learning. They are problem solving and they are thinking on their feet,” said Neal.
Nokomis Lights, Camera, Action involves participants from across the state of Maine as well as Massachusetts into New Brunswick, Canada. LCA welcome students from school district across Maine and New England.
Saco River Theatre Features Local Theatre Students
Local theater students were featured as characters as well as actors in the community-based play at Saco River Theatre in Buxton. In the community-generated theater project led by the Saco River Theatre last spring community members took part in the imagining, writing, revising, and performing of a new play by, for… and about... the community. The resulting play, A Bridge Under a Sound Over a Town, which included theater students as character as well as actors, was created by a partnership of SRT artists: Stowell Watters (playwright), Daniel Burson (dramaturg), and people in the communities of Buxton, Hollis, Standish, and Limington. Here is more about the project from Dan Burson.
“Our goal was to get as many people as we could from the area contributing to create the piece – from sharing stories, to community dinners, to performing onstage. Over the course of the project, more than 30 different members of the community read roles at readings of the piece, and over 120 contributed stories and ideas. On June 2nd and 3rd, 2018, the project culminated in two public staged readings of the resulting play.”
The community performers included both experienced professional actors and first-time actors, ranging in age from teens to 70s. Local students played an important role at every step along the way. From the start Saco River Theatre reached out to students and faculty from Bonny Eagle High School to gather feedback and to bring students into the creative process. Teen students participated in well over half the story-gathering events, including two which were hosted at Bonny Eagle High School itself. Several of the roles (including one of the leads) were written for teenagers, and every reading of the play included Bonny Eagle students onstage.
The final staged readings this June featured the acting talents of Bonny Eagle students Christopher Hascall, Alison Jones, Kady Murphy, and March Steiger, and Thornton Academy student Delaney Ziegman.
To Saco River Theatre director Dana Packard, himself a Bonny Eagle alum, having BE students involved in SRT productions is a long and ongoing tradition: “Over the years we have had many students and alumni from BE involved in productions, both on stage, and off, and we intend to continue to do so.”
Advocacy for arts education – and even community help with school exhibits and performances – aren’t the only ways that local communities can support the arts in their schools. Community/school collaborations can happen within community arts programs as well. In 2010 MAAE’s nationally award-winning project Imagination Intensive Communities identified examples of creative arts connections with schools in six Maine communities. On this Community/School Arts Connections page, we’ll feature current examples. Let us know about the innovative collaborations in your own community so we can feature them on this page – contact Susan Potters at firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome your input!