June 05, 2013
I taught for Chicago Opera Theater’s “Opera for All” program for five years, doing year-long residencies at schools throughout the Chicago area. I and a teaching partner worked with the 4th-5th-6th grade students to create original operas of about thirty minutes long. I created a character creation and script-writing process so that the stories would be 100% kid-created. At my schools, each grade would write part of the story, making it logically fit the details and events the other classes had invented. Other artists joined us to help with costumes, composition, etc.. During my last year at Clinton Elementary, four sixth-grade classes collaborated with me and fellow artists on “Kids in Space”, which was chosen out of several COT schools for taping and broadcast on CAN-TV. Centered on Princess Mega-Nebula, an octiped-alien princess child who disguises herself as a human teacher on Earth to prove to her parents that hee-yoo-mans are real, the story also included a cadre of super alien villains intent on destroying all worlds, and a human child named Aziz who discovers their plot and stops the mayhem before it reaches Mega-Nebula and a classroom of human children who have come with the Princess for a visit. This level of complexity and charm was possible in part because many of our students had been participating in Opera for All for many years; four of which they had spent with me.