April 22, 2005
University of Maine at Fort Kent education students are learning the art of stagecraft through a hands-on assignment that tasked them with producing children's plays, complete with hand-made puppets and original staging.
The unique exercise was recently assigned to students enrolled in Professor of Education Dr. Terry Murphy's writing for elementary teachers class to meet a course requirement exploring creative dramatics.
Working in small groups, students were presented with a play script based on a well-known story or fable. The only additional information provided was an attached "teaching guide" or "teacher page," which provided the teams with limited details about dramatizing the story.
Murphy instructed the students to use the information and to conduct further research to create an introduction for their play to be delivered by a narrator to "set the stage" and entice the audience before each production.
The eight plays staged included popular titles such as The Tortoise and the Hare, The Little Red Hen and The Nightingale. Other scripts presented unique variations of familiar stories and fables including Spiderella, Rafunzel and The Emperor's New Hair.
Although students were provided with a script, they were encouraged to add dialogue or narration, using their imagination. They would also need to tap their creativity to complete every aspect of the project.
"Each group was responsible for making all the puppets and props for their production. They were instructed not to use any pre-made puppets or staging. Everything had to be created by the students," said Murphy.
The assignment was made even more challenging when the education professor announced that students could not spend more than $5 on the materials needed to produce their creations.
Groups were each given 20 minutes to stage their production, including five minutes for set-up and take down and up to 15 minutes for the play.
Members of the UMFK campus community were invited to visit the class and view the student works.
"These productions surpassed any reasonable expectation I had," said Murphy. "The students used their imaginations and worked well together to stage wonderful plays."