A report from the classroom at PS 123
This year, the creative team behind our Big Green Theater initiative is the 5th grade class at PS 123. The 2012 BGT session began in January. After a few weeks of learning about “eco-playwriting”, the class visited The Bushwick Starr, with Lee Mandel of Boswyck Farms. There, they toured Lee’s hydroponic roof garden, and the theater in which their plays will be brought to life by BGT in April.
The BGT after school program is supervised by teacher Lauren Fahey, and run by Superhero Clubhouse leader Jeremy Pickard. The class meets twice a week, on Mondays and Tuesdays from 3 to 4:30 in the PS 123 classroom. Each Monday, an eco expert visits the class, to speak to the young writers about environmental concerns. Food expert Lee Mandel gave a presentation on urban farming. Green experts Jamel Evans and Rashid Littlejohn (aka Presice) used spoken word and rap to educate the class about going green. Dave Chameides, also known as “Sustainable Dave”, is a filmmaker who went a year without throwing anything away; he spoke to the class about waste. Sarah Pidgeon, from Solar 1, visited as the water expert, and Katherine Allen, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, was the expert on climate change. After Katherine’s visit, Lauren remarked, “She just converted all of those girls into becoming scientists!”
Tuesday is a writing day. The group starts with a warm up, and then writing begins with a brainstorming session, sharing memories of images and ideas from the day before. Jeremy then helps the kids focus those ideas into inspirations for plays. The students do all their own writing, in groups, with some guidance from adult guests – members of Superhero Clubhouse, BGT cast members, and Bushwick Starr artistic director Noel Allain. The Tuesday sessions end with the new plays being read aloud.
In the second half of March, all the plays will be re-read, and a handful will be chosen to continue in development. Every young playwright will have some of his or her writing represented. The class will return to The Bushwick Starr, to hear drafts of the plays read before rehearsals begin. Then, BGT designers will create a “dream design” inspired by the pieces – sketching out what the plays have conjured for them. Those dream designs will serve as inspiration for the actual set and costumes. Recently, Superhero Clubhouse resident sound designer Eva von Schweinitz held a sound design workshop with the students, incorporating sound cues into the plays about water; the pieces were then read aloud while live sound cues were played.
“The students are really flexible and generous, upbeat and supportive,” Jeremy tells us. The creative energy that’s been flowing in the classroom has resulted in plays that include: two secret agents who have a debate about farming in the city, and begin a rooftop farm; three green superheroes who live with a magician who is a hoarder, and convince him to go green; and a play inspired by a dream about a city made of garbage, after waste expert Dave Chameides visited. After green experts Jamel and Presice spoke to the class about planting trees, “One of the students went home, and with her father planted three trees that very night,” Jeremy says.
Great things are happening at PS 123! We look forward to seeing you at the Big Green Theater festival, playing at The Bushwick Starr on April 27th, 28th and 29th.