In her 14 years at High Meadow, 6th grade homeroom teacher Ally Uzzle has developed a rich, interdisciplinary, inclusive approach to middle school drama.
“The program is deeply rooted in my curriculum. It’s always based on the books we’re reading or the history we’re studying,” she says. Each year, her students select an existing work as inspiration, then develop their own interpretation for the stage, complete with original songs.
This year, students chose the work of Dr. Seuss as the basis of their production, Funny Things Are Everywhere, taking time to create roles that suit each student. As Ally says, “I want every child to shine as brightly as they want to shine . . . and this year, they wanted to shine brightly!”
For the first time, the 5th and 6th grades have collaborated on one production this year, with 27 students in all. They began by discussing the challenges of working with such a large group, spent time learning about each other’s strengths and interests, and explored the dynamics of their collaboration through improv games.
Why approach drama this way? “It’s an incredible way to deepen [student] learning,” Ally says.
She gives an example from last year’s production, “a hysterical play with characters like the female pharaoh, Hatshepsut. Those kids will never forget who Hatshepsut was. Know what I mean?”
Of course, Ally does not work alone. Throughout her tenure, she’s had the support of music teacher and songwriter Debbie Lan, who composed music and lyrics. Lucky for us, Debbie has returned to work on the show again this year, though three students have written the songs themselves!
Hollie Paynter, assistant teacher in 5th and 6th grades, brings her vision and design skills to the show in a major way, working on sets, costumes, and props. As Ally puts it, “I love to paint and Hollie loves to build and the kids love to dress up!”
This year’s show also includes dance, supported by Molly Lugo. “We’re channeling Blue Man Group and doing these weird, cool stomps,” says Ally, “It’s a grand vision of childish beauty, the children just glow, and they’re up there rhyming their faces off! It’s just the biggest, mushiest celebration.”
What else can we say but see you there?
Funny Things Are Everywhere!
Friday, May 3, 2019, 6:30pm
High Meadow Performing Arts Center