Junior high students learn at Times tables

Date: Wednesday, November 25, 2010

Courtesy photos
Clark Junior High students Stuart Sartain, James Briggs, Austin Purser and Colt Collins talk with the falcon handler at Medieval Times in Dallas.

By Jean Ann Collins
Special contributor

The students in Jason Brown's class left his room recently looking a little strange.
There was an insane clown, a spider monkey and a few kids who looked like they had been on the receiving end of a big fist.
But this wasn't a costume contest.
In this drama lesson, Mr. Brown was teaching the art of theatrical makeup.
Mr. Brown uses his drama classes at Clark and Huddleston to get his students hooked on all aspects of theater. But they don’t have to be inside the classroom to learn about theater. That’s why Mr. Brown takes advantage of field trip opportunities to show the kids what drama is really all about.
“I think it’s part of my job to expose the student to as many different aspects of theater as possible – whether it’s musical theater or live theater,” he said. “Every year I take them on a neat trip. Last year we saw ‘Wicked.’”
Nearly 100 of his students attended a matinee performance at Medieval Times.
“They get to leave the classroom and see other aspects of theater as it’s happening,” Mr. Brown said.
With the growing attendance on his trips, Mr. Brown believes the children are loving the opportunities and parents are supporting his efforts.
“This kind of attendance really encourages me to go to other things because I see it as a show of support from the parents and excitement from the kids,” he said. “We plan to go to another musical in the spring. I’m just waiting to see what productions are coming to Fair Park.”
During the excursion to Medieval Times, the students had the opportunity to tour the torture museum.
As Mercedes Cox, Delani Landers and Jessi Petty looked at the “falling board,” Jessi said, “I don’t even want to know what that does.”
Camerin Edmonds agreed.
“Some of this stuff is a little brutal because it was used to kill people,” she said.
The museum tour preceded the live action show.
“The best part is when they jousted, but I could tell they had some late reactions during some of the moves,” Stuart Sartain said of the choreographed fight scenes. “And I like how the sparks fly when the swords are hitting each other.”
Colt Collins said it was sometimes hard to imagine that the knights of Medieval Times were  performing.
“It looked so real so it was good acting,” he said. “But in real life, the knights would have flown off the horse when they got hit, not roll off or do a flip off the horse all cool like that.” 
Zak Dearing also liked the idea of getting to see other types of acting.
“This is like risky theater,” he said. “This stuff really helps you get an idea of what’s out there for theater. It’s visual art.”
Dawson Wilson was thrilled about the acting alternative.
“They get paid to ride horses and use swords as props,” he said. “I’d do it. That’s fun enough to do it for free.”
An added bonus for the Princeton kids was that the “red knight” saved the day for the prince and princess of Medieval Times.
The Clark and Huddleston students got to wave their red flags, cheer for their red knight and proudly wear the winning red crowns – all the while eating their lunch with their hands.
“I liked the giant turkey legs,” Dawson said.
According to the students, it’s not just the trips that attract them to Mr. Brown’s theater elective.
“It’s just awesome,” Zak said. “You get a credit doing something you like doing.”
They also speak highly of Mr. Brown and his teaching methods.
“Mr. Brown is awesome,” Stuart said. “I’m having too much fun to realize I’ve learned something.”
In addition to theatrical makeup, some of the activities in drama class include scene creation, theater etiquette, skits and “improv.”
“It’s where you just go with the flow,” Jayla Williams said as she described improvisation.
Delani Landers said improv is a favorite activity of many students in class.
“Improv is where you don’t rehearse, you just make it up as you go,” Delani said.
The students are also preparing for a one-act play, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” and a “way off-Broadway” competition.
“‘Way off-Broadway’ is done by the National Junior Forensic League,” Zak explained. “You spend the day auditioning for parts, then they tell you what parts you should get, then you perform.”
For the one-act play, Zak is a rabbi and a Nazi soldier.
“I play the part of the rabbi who marries the two characters so one doesn’t have to go to a concentration camp,” he said. “And so I wouldn’t be bored the rest of the performance, I get to play the part of a Nazi soldier.”
Zak likes being on stage as opposed to behind the scenes. However, he uses some of his theater knowledge as a hobby.
“Right now I’m working for the coaches by videotaping the football games, so I’m behind the camera instead of in front of the camera,” he said. “But so far I don’t really get into the technical part of theater because I like acting more.”
Just like “no pass, no play,” Mr. Brown uses theater to get the kids motivated to do well in school.
“Some kids might be on the bubble academically, but if they really want to go on a trip, they’ll go that extra mile to get ahead with their work to pass so they can participate in the field trip,” he said.
Mr. Brown continues to be enthusiastic about his theater program and builds on this. He comes to Princeton after three years in Bonham and a teaching degree from Texas A&M-Commerce.
“The A&M program is geared toward educational theater, and lots of promising theater teachers go through the program,” he said. “It allowed me to teach what I love to do.”
Camerin Edmonds and Ginger Phennel visit with the king of Medieval Times before seeing the matinee performance during a field trip.

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