Acting up helps with issues

Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Marmaton Valley High Educational Theater Troupe members, from left, Kurtis LaRue, Maggie Meiwes, Shawn Storrer and Mercedes Trollope work on a human sculpting exercise. In the background are Morgan Henry, left, and Jaclyn Biggs.

MORAN — A group of Marmaton Valley High School students will begin offering lessons for youngsters to discover new ways of deal with complex problems.
Sixteen students — part of Marmaton Valley’s inaugural Educational Theater Troupe — took part Friday and Saturday in an intensive 16-hour InterACTive Theater for Dialogue training session.
The goal of the workshop was to teach the students how to address issues like bullying or peer pressure, explained Julie Tholen, founder of the Marmaton Valley student group.
Instead of basic lectures that teach right from wrong, students learned how to develop various skits and games in order to spark audience participation, Tholen said.
“That’s the key to the program’s success,” Tholen said. “They’ll play a scene, then ask somebody from the audience how they would react.”
Instead of stopping there, the students redo the scene with the audience’s suggestions, and perhaps invite an audience member or two to participate.
Instead of “preaching” it’s “teaching.”
The workshop was spearheaded by Katherine Burke, founder of InterACTive and a professor at Kent State University in Ohio.
Burke led the students through a number of games fashioned around a sense of teamwork and imagination.
One such exercise, human sculpting, had the students create various scenes by posing their classmates — without saying a word — and then discussing the tone of the scenes.
The idea was to facilitate teamwork while illustrating a person’s sense of control, Tholen explained
From there, Burke broke the students into four groups of four to create skits addressing a number of issues youth encounter, such as alcoholism or sexual harassment.
The second day dealt with instruction, so the students could learn to work with other student groups.
Tholen said troupe will work with Marmaton Valley students in grades 7-12 next week.
She hopes to have the group travel to other schools in the fall.
“It’s a neat program and it’s really near and dear to my heart,” she said.
Funding for the workshop came from the Whitehead Trust, numerous local organizations and an anonymous $1,000 donation, Tholen said.
“We weren’t sure we were going to be able to do this because of the school district’s financial situation,” Tholen said. “Then we received word that somebody would donate money if we could match it.
“It’s been an amazing project,” she continued. “To see how the students acted going in compared with how they worked at the end was remarkable.”
Members of the acting troupe are Jennifer Ensminger, Kassandra Turner, Kurtis LaRue, Shawn Storrer, Febie Bell, Lauren Scharff, Jaclyn Biggs, Josh Kale, Morgan Henry, Michelle Heskett, Mercedes Trollope, Cody Knight, Maggie Meiwes, Molly McEwan, Becca Maxey and Amie Beggs. They were selected to participate through an application process, Tholen said.
Assisting Tholen and Burke was Lori Ensminger.