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Creative Dramatics

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    Thomas Martin works on an improvisation scene with students from the Boys & Girls Club of Georgetown.
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    Gabe Chaves works with students on a puppet show version of "Little Bo Peep."
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    Irene Lule (left) helps students stage a puppet show version of "Little Red Riding Hood."
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    Irene Lule narrates a story about the Chinese suns that the students performed for other children at the Boys & Girls Club of Georgetown June 23. (Photo by Kristen McLaughlin)
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Summer class uses theatre to teach important life skills

Students in Theatre Professor Desi Roybal’s summer Creative Dramatics class are doing more than just learning about theatre.

They’re also using theatre to help children in the community learn valuable skills such as teamwork, trust and respect.

Roybal has been teaching the class during May or June term since 2004. While his specialty is set design, he is passionate about working with youth theatre and implementing that into his teaching. Thus, he came up with the idea to have students in the class work together with students from the Boys & Girls Club of Georgetown.

“I enjoy seeing both the Southwestern students and the youth at the Boys & Girls Club growing and discovering talents that they didn’t know they had,” Roybal said.

During the first week of the course, Roybal works solely with the Southwestern students to prepare them for working with the youth. During the second and third weeks of the class, children from the Boys & Girls Club come to Southwestern to work with the college students. Course activities include puppetry, poetry, improvisation, story telling and mask making. A recent afternoon found the students collaborating on puppet show versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Little Bo Peep” in the Jones Theater.

Students who enroll in the class are usually non-theatre majors who want to fulfill their fine arts elective and gain leadership skills that will benefit them in their future career.

Students participating in the class this summer include Gabe Chavez, who hopes to attend law school; Irene Lule, who wants to be an intelligence analyst for the government; and Thomas Martin  who wants to pursue Latin American marketing and advertising.

“The way I feel about this course is the same way I feel about Southwestern. I enjoy the ability to take something that counts for credit that is educational and mold it into more than just a course and something that is selfless,” Chavez said.

Martin has experience working with children at a camp, but he said this has been completely different.

“When these kids from all different backgrounds are thrown together, they either mesh or they don’t,” he said. “Working with kids like this, I feel like I am actually making an impact. They actually want to be here.”

Lule compared the class to a big roller coaster. “You have good and bad days,” she said.  “It all depends on the kids. There are some kids who always make you smile and with others, it’s harder to get them to cooperate. It brings such a sense of accomplishment.”

The class will culminate June 23 with a performance for all the other children who are participating in programs at the Boys & Girls Club this summer.

“Getting these children away from the club environment and into the environment of higher learning exposes them to something that most have only talked about,” said Daniel Anstee, branch director at the Boys & Girls Club of Georgetown.

−Kristen McLaughlin