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Theatre Program In London Proves Inspirational

April 11, 2007

Carol Fisher, department of theatre and dance, received a 2006-07 CIE Faculty International Travel grant funded by the VPAA and traveled to England in March 2007 to observe and participate in the Creative Learning program at the Lyric Theater in London. Her account of the trip follows.

“The Lyric Theater has a long legacy of outstanding, ground breaking work for the community and young people in the West London boroughs. The START program introduces basic skills in the performing arts for young people outside the formal education sector.

The Lyric's main stage performances include a wide range of theatre which reaches audiences from infant to young adult. Plays for infants and toddlers explore the theatrical experience through active participation and multi-sensory involvement. Income-challenged youth have the opportunity to attend plays through substantial corporate sponsorship.

In addition to performances for young people, there is a variety of opportunities for actor training and play production by youth. It is clear that the success of this theatre's youth program can be attributed to the consistent level of quality and innovation found in all their projects.

The most inspiring aspect of the program was found in the Creative Learning team's strategies for young people at risk and those identified as NEET (not in employment, education or training). They have established a variety of projects which improve literacy and mathematical skills based on the National Standards of Education. These projects target specific artistic interests relevant to this particular population. By translating these interests into learning concepts, the teachers are able to begin building bridges between the arts and academics.

Some examples of these projects include using pop lyrics as inspiration for writing original poetry and studying the structure of Hip-Hop rhythms to understand mathematical concepts. "Single Moms Singin' " responds to the love of contemporary music, while offering accredited learning in reading. In addition, quality child care is provided for these single teenage mothers while they participate. The success of these projects has resulted in measurable improvement in test scores and a reduction of crime among young repeat offenders.

My brief exposure to these ground breaking projects for youth and the community has been fruitful. The coordinator has expressed an interest in developing an intern relationship and collaboration through workshops and lectures. A firsthand introduction to this innovative work of the Creative Learning team has sparked for me many new ideas in project development and teaching strategies.

Though the value of the dollar made London a very expensive trip for me personally, the supplemental funds from CIE were very appreciated."

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