After acting out this little scene, the third graders sit on the floor in front of the mini-stage. The teacher asks “What did the ladies do? How did they move? How did the prince respond?” They review what they have observed, and literally run to their desks to write down the details and the dialogue. “The prince nodded his head and stood tall,” they write. When that one is finished, they dash back to the classroom stage to act out the next scene. When we simply remind young writers to “use details”, they get writer’s block. What details? Green? Very green? Acting out a scene from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” helps them discover and observe details. “How did you know he was serious?” asks the teacher. “He pointed his finger and used a big voice!” the children answer. When we use acting to investigate a familiar and engaging story, we enact the details instinctively. When we immediately write them down, and then return for another scene, we remain engaged, excited, and focused. We know the story because we have listened to parts of the opera in music. We have “gone shopping” in a mini [school] fabric shop where we compared and selected fabrics for costuming our puppet characters. We studied the art and symbolism of ancient Egypt, in preparation for designing our backdrops and costumes. On Wednesday, we visited the elaborate 2-story murals of John Biggers at WSSU, noting his incorporation of those same Egyptian symbols into his work.
The three evil ladies circle around, hissing “Tamino and Papageno, run away! They will kill you if you stay!” The prince folds his arms and turns silently away. But the birdcatcher, Papageno, leaps into the air, arms flailing, and squeals “I don’t want to do this!” In that moment of fear, he breaks his vow of silence.
The students will perform their original puppet version of Mozart’s opera...joined by three professional musicians: flautist Lisa Ransom, pianist Robert Rocco, and tenor Glenn Siebert. Stepping into this great work of musical art and using it as a vehicle to make visual connections between ancient Egypt, the Europeans of the 18th century, and a great contemporary African-American artist in America makes an enormous impression on the young psyche. We are not so very far away from one another over the centuries.~ Mary Siebert, arts curriculum coordinator