|(L to R) Stephen Louis Grush as Lee and Matthew Brumlow as Austin in Season 24's production of True West. Photo by Michael Brosilow.|
Education and Outreach Programs
Education is a fundamental component of our work at American Theater Company. We strive to explore and expand the concept of American identity. By taking our work into Chicago Public Schools, we attempt to better understand and reflect the community we serve. This discovery feeds our work on stage and helps us to reflect a more diverse and inclusive presentation of American identity. Whether it is through American Mosaic, Chicago Chronicle, The Bridge Program or our other education programs, our goal is to introduce and expose students to excellent theatre. By engaging them in theatre as active participants in a deep and meaningful way. We strive to expand the impact of theatre beyond the stage by building programs and long-term relationships with the youth and community we serve.
The Humanity Project
American Theater Company launched Chicago Chronicle: Volume 1 in the spring of 2008. That spring, eight professional playwrights representing ATC went into the Logan Square community to conduct interviews with youth, families, businesses and community leaders. These interviews were compiled into a script about the community of Logan Square and about the role Chase School has played in fostering a spirit of a positive community. Chicago Chronicle, Volume One was performed in a staged reading at American Theater Company by professional actors in June to a sold-out audience comprised almost entirely of Logan Square community members.
As a result of Volume One's success, ATC launched Chicago Chronicle Volume Two at Chase School the following year in which a selected core group of eighth grade student served as teen leaders. These youth leaders partnered with our professional playwrights to identify themes in their community and the people they would like to interview in order to explore these themes. They worked with the playwrights to conduct interviews, gather and develop the material into script form.
This year, we are proud to launch Chicago Chronicle: Volume 3. Chicago Chronicle: Volume 3 is a program of American Theater Company that has been working with a core group of eighth grade Chase students to serve as teen leaders. These teens have partnered with professional playwrights to identify themes in their community. Once a theme was established, the teen leaders and playwrights identified people in their community who can help to tell these stories. These students worked with eight playwrights to interview people from their school, families, and community. The playwrights then used these real-life interviews to create a play about the students’ lives. The result of this work will be presented in a staged reading by professional actors on our ATC stage on Friday, March 5th at 7:30.
The ATC education staff conducted four workshops with the Chase students that first involved an introduction to the program. In the four workshops, the eighth grade students have also been introduced to documentary style theatre and have explored several theme topics that dealt with heritage, youth violence in the community, and American identity. As a result of participating in this program, the student has the opportunity to continue on as a teen leader with American Theater Company’s Chicago Chronicle program. This experience provided the students with the following advantages:
Additional arts credit on their report card
Beginning at the end of October, the students and playwrights had weekly meetings to identify a theme for the play and conduct interviews with community members about that theme. This took place from October through March. In November, the teams began interviewing people in the Logan Square community and created stories out of those interviews. Each team continued interviewing and writing transcripts until early February. Once a rough draft had been established the actors began rehearsals.
Towards the end of the process a comprehensive script which ties together all the pieces around the central theme was established. Students were involved in the process on a consultation and observation basis. Rehearsals took place with professional actors and a staged reading will be presented at ATC’s performing space on March 5th at 7:30 at American Theater Company. Tickets are free but space is limited. Please call 773.409.4125 ext. 107 to learn more about Chicago Chronicle Vol. III.
ATC’s Chicago Chronicle alumni:
In the American Mosaic program, ATC-trained teaching artists collaborate with 9th grade English teachers in 35 classrooms to deliver an intensive six-week arts residency in seven CPS schools. The program’s goal is to improve student academic achievement in the high school English curriculum. ATC’s method is to apply its core artistic competencies to literary instruction. ATC trains a cohort of classroom teachers and teaching artists to lead students in a performance-based study of a play, in the same manner that a professional acting company would study, rehearse, and produce a text for the stage. The program’s focal play is one produced in ATC’s mainstage season, which in this next year will be the World Premiere of Welcome to Arroyo’s by Kristoffer Diaz.
Classroom Teacher and Teaching Artist Preparation
Classroom teachers join teaching artists for two workshops that introduce American Theater Company, the program, and the curriculum schedule. During the first workshop, teachers and teaching artists review a curriculum guide that explores the play’s plot, characters, themes, performance history, and impact on American society. Teaching teams also learn ATC’s recommended activities for teaching the text and preparing the students for the residency. In the second workshop, teaching teams read, examine and discuss the play. They read a sample scene and participate in round table discussions that emulate student discussion in the classroom. ATC provides materials on the design and production aspects of the play, including the professional design team’s actual research. Subsequent to this workshop, teaching artists and classroom teachers meet one-on-one before the program commences to individualize an approach to each classroom and to continue to solidify their particular teaching partnership.
Mosaic classroom teachers worked with ATC’s Education Director to develop the program’s curriculum. The team analyzed the Arroyo’s script to determine themes to align with the 9th grade English literature standards. The group then wrote a curriculum to integrate academic standards into the program’s production component.
Students begin the program by studying the literary aspects of the play for two weeks, led by their classroom teacher and two ATC teaching artists. Students examine how the play relates to their identities as Americans, and teaching teams provide tools to foster discussion on what it means to be an American. Students then spend four weeks exploring the performance aspects, led by an ATC teaching artist. Students manage project timelines and budgets, study American history and culture, and learn to express their ideas articulately and respectfully. They become actors, directors, producers, designers, and stage managers to stage an assigned scene from the play. Each class rehearses a different scene from the play, and the program culminates in a showcase of the entire play in front of peers and family members on the set of ATC’s professional production. Afterward, students and their families are provided ticket vouchers to see a free performance of the professional ATC production.
ATC’s American Mosaic Alumni:
2009-10 American Mosaic Teaching Artists
2009-10 American Mosaic Teaching Assistants
2009-2010 Bridge Instructors
PhotosPictures of our participants in action