“I wish I was a butterfly so I could see the world” [Literary Arts at Leland]

Today we take you to Leland Elementary in South Austin, where teaching artist Amy Eaton tackled a theater and literary arts residency with students ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade.

Amy’s students learned basic theater skills through acting exercises and improv games; they also wrote poetry using Kenneth Koch’s “Wishes, Whys and Dreams” as a starting point. Their poems focused on themes such as “I Wish”, “Lies”, “I Used to Be, But Now I Am”, ” and “Animals” (using Williams Blake’s poem “The Tyger” as a reference).

“Many of the kids responded beautifully and created some wonderful poems with surprising imagery and deep thought,” Amy said. “As the residency progressed, we focused more on writing and less on theater. For their final presentation, kids who wanted to share their work read one poem of their choosing.” (Putting their new acting skills to good use!)

What Amy learned from a residency in which she worked with 6-year-olds alongside 14-year-olds is that “It’s okay to work simpler, and with smaller scope.” Sometimes that truly does work best.

And one student in particular stood out to her through his natural talent for theater:

“[Tommy] was a 5th grader that had had no previous drama experience. However, his intuitive understanding of theater concepts completely blew me away. He offered to come on the days he wasn’t in another program and assist me with the littler kids. I left him with a list of theaters that may have community residencies or summer programs. If the right opportunity presents itself to him, he will go a long way.”

BELOW, two video clips from Leland students’ final presentation. Enjoy! Questions for Amy? Leave a comment below.

I WISH – “I wish I was a butterfly so I could see the world. I wish I was a star in the sky.”

MY OPPOSITE LIFE – “My television eats people. I own Facebook. Books are reading each other. Pain doesn’t exist.”

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