When you ask me, “Nisha, what is your passion?” I answer quickly with, “Teaching students theater and creating productions.”
This passion was developed in me over the years. I can remember as a child creating productions in my bedroom with my dolls and stuffed animals. My passion has come to life as I get to teach the students of Hillside.
Teaching theater is a beautiful gift. I get to help students be fully involved in the process and guide them through each step. Theater naturally fits in with the Project Based Learning approach that we use at Hillside. We work on projects for an extended period of time and in the end we get to show our project to an audience. Putting on a theater production requires dedication, investigation, question asking, and collaboration throughout the journey.
The first steps in the theater production process is creating a set design and also choosing a script. We then have students come together and do the initial read through of the chosen script. This generates our main questions to address as we start the process of creating scenes, establishing characters, and props that will showcase our story and what we want to share with the audience.
This process creates more questions with the opportunity to create more solutions as students continue on this creative adventure. At times, however, the students may discover an idea that cannot work and then they have to come up with another solution and do something else that will work. Problem solving!
A great example of problem solving was in our recent Wizard of Oz production. The students really wanted to put doors on a tall, gumball machine prop that we built as well as a large, wooden Starbucks cup prop. The initial idea was to have the Munchkins emerge from these large props.
However, the students ran into issues with stabilizing these set pieces. In the end, they decided that emerging from these large props was not a safe option for the munchkin actors to come onto the stage. Instead, the students decided to use the props as the backdrop for the Land of Oz. To use a Project Based Learning term, this was their VOICE AND CHOICE that led the students to solve the issue concerning these set pieces.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz took more effort on everyone involved in the production because it was a musical! I spent many hours by myself in my room singing the songs over and over again. (just like my childhood!) The students were eager to add movement to our songs, but they quickly learned you have to know the song very well first before adding in movement. This required singing these songs over and over. (If I only had a brain….)
I am currently attending grad school full time, working at Hillside, along with taking the lead on our recent production. I made it work by using class time to work on the production, but I also required after school rehearsals, which were a lot of fun as the cast got to know each other in a deeper way due to the vast amount of time we spent together.
My goal in Middle School Theater is to create a positive, fun environment that builds student confidence and self-esteem. I believe in giving students the opportunity to experience being in a production, in whatever capacity they choose. Teaching theater is my passion and I want to share this with all children who are interested or curious in theater.
This year, I decided to encourage ‘luck’ by breaking my ankle about a week before show time. As the saying goes before a show, “Break a leg!” I literally did…
It worked out because the Hillside family worked it out together!