North Debuts Let’s Act Together

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Parkway Schools have been working with the Special School District (SSD) in recent years to work towards creating a more inclusive environment for kids in SSD to engage in various activities. In 2020, North began a course called Let’s Act Together where experienced theater students and SSD students take part in theater together.

Sara Hong, Editor-in-Chief

The theater arts offers students a way to find their voice, to work with others and to learn about life. However, for students with special needs, the theater and being on stage can be intimidating. This year, Parkway North decided to try to change that by offering an inclusive theater class called Let’s Act Together designed to bring together experienced theater students and students from the Special School District.
“[Parkway], over the past few years has gotten a number of classes together for students from the Special School District that are done in conjunction with students who have been through that curriculum before or are knowledgeable in that curriculum. Let’s Act Together is the latest [addition],” said drama teacher Chad Little, who introduced this course to Parkway North.
According to the course guide, the class is structured to provide general theater education to students with the opportunity “to help other students access theatre arts in a supportive and positive way” while “provid[ing] a modified instruction for students with unique abilities.”
“My biggest focus for this class is to help the students of the Special School District feel more comfortable around other students. To feel like and know that they have a voice, that they deserve to be heard and that they can be creative and have an outlet for that creativity,” said Little.
Although this year was the launch year for this class at North, Let’s Act Together has been offered at other Parkway schools before.
“[Let’s Act Together] has been piloted at [Parkway] West for a few years… I’ve had conversations with the administration where it was brought up and whether or not we could launch it. We finally got to a point where we could figure it out and make it work and then COVID hit,” said Little. “If we were in a place not COVID related, we could have a performance on stage to do some numbers or some plays we are writing.”
Students and teachers are finding ways around the limitations of virtual learning, but this course and theater in general offer a set of unique difficulties.
“The biggest obstacles would be being able to see what’s going on. I have a camera, but those little cameras on our laptops are not the greatest thing when you’ve got a room full of kids,” said Little. “[Another obstacle] is whether or not the students at home will [choose to] turn on their camera. Some of them are shy or concerned about their surroundings and I totally get that, [but] with performance things, you have to be able to see each other to work well.”
This is where student mentors can be a major help. Student mentors guide two or three students from the Special School District through scripts and character development in breakout rooms on Zoom. They play games with them helping them become more comfortable, thus allowing for more participation and better understanding.
“I wanted to experience something new and make new friends and that’s why I decided to go for this class,” said senior Nika Hart, a mentor for the class. “I am a more introverted person and for acting, that’s not a good mix. That’s why I put myself in situations where I can’t be introverted, where I have to work with others.”
At its core, Let’s Act Together also presents its own obstacles regarding the nature of theatre.
“[A difficult part of the class] is trying to incorporate certain scenes where we are supposed to talk during that scene, but some students aren’t able to talk or communicate in that way. So trying to make a scene and make it stand out without using words happens quite frequently,” said Hart.
While this is a new class, there are several plans to improve the class in the future especially after COVID is gone.