Student Reflections on the LWS Theater Magic Productions

The Subject Tonight Is Love: The Life and Poetry of Hafiz

The Sufi mystic comes alive through his poetry, dance, and the story of his life.

Download the student reflections (with student artwork) (PDF)

Watch Theater Magic Videos.

A New Tomorrow: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Second & Third Grade

As we wove the theater experience into the curriculum, the second and third graders wrote their observations in response to an exercise entitled “Skin Deep.” Each child answered the question: “Would you want to be judged only by the way you look? Explain why, or why not?”

I would not like to be judged by the things I like or the color of the eyes. I would not like to be judged by how I look or the color of my skin and the things that I like to eat. I would want people to say that we are all God’s children, and we would always be God’s children. Also, I would want to be judged by the content of my character. Sahana Narayanan, 2nd Grade

No, I would not like that because it is not fair, like at MLK’s time, it would not be fair if people cannot drink from the same fountain or go to the same school or play at the same park or anything. I can only be judged by God. Shubha Chakravarty, 2nd Grade

No, because I have a lot of love. I am a good boy. I am born on earth to do God’s work. I am a person. I’m like anyone else. I’m God’s son. I love all. But I want to be judged by what my character is like. Varun Joshi, 3rd Grade

Fourth & Fifth Grade

The Fourth and Fifth Grade Creators and their teacher wrote this wonderful essay together to celebrate the yearly theater experience while they learned about essay writing.

A great deal of research on teaching writing suggests that teachers should model their own thought processes and facilitate group-writing experiences to uncover the challenge and fun in the writing process.

“To start, we webbed our outline, brainstormed our ideas and began to consider how to organize big ideas and details in a logical order. As we drafted the essay, paragraph by paragraph on the board, taking turns as scribes, all voices chimed in to add to the description. Seasoned fifth-grade editors helped us conform to spelling and grammatical conventions and conceive the tricky transitions between ideas. Carefully choosing our words together, we dabbled in figurative language to try to manifest some theater magic!”

The Living Wisdom School Plays and What We Do in Them

Every happy year, the Living Wisdom School stars put on wonderful plays about a famous person who contributed something great to the world. We learn to act, dance, and sing in the manner of a certain culture. When we do these plays, we learn to work together in harmony. These plays represent multiple cultures. Therefore, we get immersed in their language, history, tradition, art, philosophy, and religion. I really think it will be fun to learn about all these cultures and about the people who believed in them.

Every star gets a wonderful part that involves great effort in acting, dancing, or singing. We learn to be actors and actresses who represent characters from different cultures and religions. Through acting, we have an opportunity to learn to empathize with another. We must concentrate and focus to perform a dance with rhythm and steps inspired by another culture. When we learn to sing songs, it helps us to enunciate and become familiar with languages other than our own. I find that through acting, dancing, and singing, I become confident about performing.

We learn to act, dance and sing in peaceful, harmonious relationship with all the LWS stars. Unless we all work together, the show will fall apart because everyone depends on each other. For example, in our play about Kuan Yin, if Anjali, who played Kuan Yin, weren’t in the finale, the finale would make no sense at all. Of, if the person who operates the lights and speakers failed to come, no one would understand or see, and the whole show would be a disaster. Therefore, we experience the wonderful result of everyone adding to the whole. When everyone works together, the whole is greater than each solo part and better than anyone could ever imagine. The reason we learn to work together is so we can learn to care about one another, and we see how each person matters. Learning that everyone is important helps us to begin to appreciate diversity.

The following excerpts are a sample of reflections on the play experience written individually by Fourth Graders

From this play, I learned that if you’re brave and think of God, you can do anything. For example, when Martin’s house was bombed, all his neighbors wanted to use violence, but MLK stood up and said, “We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us.”

…Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and “I Have Been to the Mountain Top” speech both touched me. I like the “I Have a Dream” speech because he encourages all people to pray to God together. And he is determined to, “Let freedom ring,” even in the places with maximum injustice, like Mississippi. I like the “I Have Been to the Mountain Top” speech because he told that he has been to the mountaintop, and he’s seen the promised land, and he KNOWS that everyone will someday go to the promised land, the land with freedom and justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life inspired me to be fair to all people. It taught me that all people are equal… Meera Yellamraju, 4th Grade

During the play, we put some dances together. I really liked all the dances because I love to move my body…The dances that I was in are “The Hand Jive,” “Congo Line,” and the Mama Loma Coma Loma” dance….My costume is a black dress. The black dress represents a black person. In the play, I am a protester, angry woman, and a narrator. My favorite characters…are the protestor and narrator. I like the narrator because I have to stand up on the stage, big and tall and speak the words of MLK. The reason I like being a protestor is because I get to yell, sing, and march…I LOVE to sing. Myla Duane, 4 th Grade

Sixth, Seventh, & Eight Grade

The following selections, some of which are excerpts, are written by Middle School students during a timed Social Studies test. They reflect the integration of our study of the Civil Rights Movement in Social Studies with our Performing Arts Program, character development, and formal paragraph and essay writing.

This year our school did a play on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. I thought that this was one of the best plays I have done at Living Wisdom School. I played two fairly large roles, those of Daddy King and Bull Connor. These roles were interesting for me because they were completely opposite in their views. Daddy King was a very supportive father and believed wholeheartedly in what his son was doing. Bull Connor, on the other hand, was the police commissioner of Birmingham. He hated black people. Playing these roles helped me learn that some white people were persuaded to hate black people by others like Bull Connor. This helped me to understand why most of the whites were against the black movement.

My favorite part of the play process would have to be playing two opposite roles. I feel it taught me a lot. I actually enjoyed the play so much this year I can think of no “bad” part. I feel the play really helped me understand the motives of both sides of the Civil Rights Movement. Kai Neuhold-Huber, 8th Grade

This year’s play was very different for me than past plays. Never before had I played a person full of hate. I saw a video of real events happening and then was able to act them out in our play. I learned a lot about Dr. King, the Civil Rights Movement, and even something about myself.

I think C.T. Smiley (my character) went along with the Southern majority’s racist opinions. In my scene, he goes to Dr. King and says the Mayor regrets bombing Dr. King’s house. I think he would have been happy if Dr. King had been killed; however, the Mayor forces him to go apologize. But when someone challenges him, he immediately falls back into an ignorant opinion. The only reason I think he didn’t have his own opinion is because his opinions are so flawed, he couldn’t have thought them through. It’s wrong that Dr. King’s house was bombed, even if Dr. King was somehow “asking for it.”

This year I was really surprised that I didn’t get nervous. It was really a different experience for me. The worry about forgetting my lines wasn’t there; the worry I’d mess up wasn’t there, and the worry of all those people watching me was absent. It was like the whole load of the play had been lifted off of me, and I was just watching it. I don’t know what changed in me, but not being nervous changed the whole play process. It’s something I think everyone could benefit from. The play is happening, enjoy it.

I came into this play with a pathetic understanding of who Dr. King was. This play was a great learning for me. Before this play, the only in-depth analysis of Dr. King I’d read was an article from The Onion. I’d never learned about how blacks were treated. I never learned why Dr. King did what he did…. Originally I thought the idea (for the play) wasn’t very good, but it turned out to be very good. Since this was the last play at this school for me, I was very happy with my performance. I only wish I could have enjoyed the other plays as much as this one. Drew Schleck, 8th Grade

Over the past nine years, I have been in over nine theater productions with Living Wisdom School, but the 2006 production was a new, unique, exciting experience. Since this year’s play was about Martin Luther King, Jr., the subject of racial equality and segregation had to be addressed with the students. Because of this, I learned more from this year’s play than from any other.

When our teacher, Gary, asked the students what part we would like before the faculty cast the play, I suspected I would have a smaller role since I had such a substantial role last year. Thus, I was quite surprised when I got cast

as one of five Martin Luther Kings. I was a bit overwhelmed at first, but as the process evolved, I realized I had a wonderful opportunity to expand my knowledge of civil rights.

Sitting in a classroom and reading an often boring history book doesn’t really give a student the right picture of civil rights, but through doing a play about it, you get to experience what black people felt in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It allows for a great understanding of what really happened, and I definitely have a MUCH greater grasp of just how courageous Mr. King was to stand up to the overpowering segregation that was going on. I became more sensitive and aware of racism, even now in the 21 st century.

Because I have been able to experience so many plays from casting to closing night, my favorite part of the play process would have to be the performances. Standing on stage, looking out at the applauding audience, I always feel proud that I’ve been able to take part in telling them a story, especially this year with Martin Luther King, Jr. The play was so moving, partly because of the dramatic scenes such as the Birmingham riot, partly because of the slides that were shown to accompany the action. Because these events happened so recently compared to most of the other Living Wisdom School plays, the audience was more able to really feel what was going on….

When all is said and done, my eighth grade theater experience has been a very special one. The sentimental value of it being my last play makes it a memory I won’t soon forget. Learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement through theater has helped me realize what a magical medium the stage is. Anjali Madison, 8th Grade

….This year I played Coretta Scott King. I didn’t really know much about her until the play. All the websites I went to never really highlighted her life. She was behind the scenes, but she never really disappeared completely. She was a very strong woman. She never went to any of the marches that Martin led, so she would be constantly wondering if he was OK or not. She knew his life was in danger, but she was also the main person who gave him strength when he faltered. When Martin’s death came on the news, she felt like breaking down but believed that she had to put on a strong face for her children. The youngest daughter, Yoki, didn’t realize that Martin wasn’t going to come back. I think that would have been a very poignant scene to put in the play, but I guess it would have been too long.

This year’s play really opened my eyes to police brutality. The white officers would let huge dogs loose on black protestors, turn fire hoses on them, and beat them with billy clubs. It was very horrifying. I don’t see how one human can treat another one like an animal and live with it. But, I guess it’s easy to say that now, because I didn’t live in those times. Maybe it was rooted in the white people that they were better than blacks so much, that they began to find some sort of logic to justify it. Some sort of very flawed logic. Though there are still some bigots, everything is much better.

My favorite part of the play was the March on Washington. It was really hard to choreograph, and even harder to get the little kids to be quiet, but it all worked out in the end…My other favorite part was swing dancing, because it made me feel light and happy. It also helped that I had a good partner. That was loads of fun. The Stroll was hilarious. You don’t get to see Middle Schoolers act like they’re so cool everyday…It was very hard not to laugh.

I think this was probably my favorite play because it was a lot easier (for me) to relate to, as opposed to Hafiz or Kuan Yin. It was SO much fun. We should do it again sometime. Pooja Desai, 8 th Grade

The Play is a road. Sometimes there are bumps in the road, but that doesn’t mean I have a least favorite part… If I had to pick one interesting piece of knowledge, it would probably be learning about MLK Jr.’s children. I really like learning about children, and I feel it helps me to understand a person better when I hear stories about their children and how they act with them.
Genyana Marina Greenfield-August, 8th Grade

…My first character was a black woman named Mother Pollard who was a big part of the bus boycott…she, along with a lot of others, stopped riding the buses to show her determination to change the law. My next character was a white city attorney, who said that the carpool the blacks had organized was operating without a license and was a nuisance. My last character was a white policeman who hated blacks and what they were doing. He beat them and set dogs on them and sprayed them with fire hoses. In the end, when he was ordered to hurt the children, he realized how terrible he was being and didn’t do it.

…My favorite part of the play process, or at least one of my favorite parts, was the jitterbug dance. I love dancing, and it was so much fun to learn a new style. Just before, I had watched the movie Mad Hot Ballroom in which they did swing dancing. I was paired with Pooja, who is a great dancer, so we got to do one of the more confusing turns, the Pretzle. I really enjoyed doing that dance, and I also enjoyed the skirts we did it in. I love twirly skirts, so it was twice as fun. Rewa Bush, 6th Grade