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ExpandED Schools by TASC: Setting the Stage with Mr. A

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By Therese Workman

April 18, 2014

I visited IS 143 in the Bronx to take in the BELL Spring Delight Showcase, where kids dazzled each other and parents with performances showing off their new abilities.

As I weaved around cafeteria tables to try to get better angles for pictures, the room was buzzing with the kids' nervous excitement about performing, then bursting into applause for each group of dancers, actors, 6th grade Math Jeopardy contestants and students including Tyler Fernandez (pictured below), who dramatically read their original poetry.

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Among all of the talent on hand, I was particularly struck by BELL drama instructor Andre "Mr. A" Bell and his drama troupe. Mr. A's drama workshops, as he described in his introduction, are built on a philosophy of having students write and perform from personal experience. During their expanded learning time at this MS ExTRA school, students come together to discuss every-day social issues they experience firsthand. Based on those conversations, they write their short plays, cast and perform them.

Part of what drew Mr. A to become a BELL community educator is that he himself benefitted from an arts enrichment program. He's an alumnus of Positive Youth Troupe, a musical theater company that performs throughout New York City.


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I watched Mr. A work the cafeteria like a master director, herding performers and calling out short stage directives. His students stood tall, projected their voices and perfectly delivered their lines. They were utterly convincing in their roles -- ranging from rabble-rousing student to stoic principal -- which must've been the result of Mr. A's instruction that "acting is being honest in an imaginary world."

Though the weather outside still felt wintry, inside IS 143 -- where kids debuted their new skills and cheered each other on -- it was already spring.

I visited IS 143 in the Bronx to take in the BELL Spring Delight Showcase, where kids dazzled each other and parents with performances showing off their new abilities.

As I weaved around cafeteria tables to try to get better angles for pictures, Image removed.the room was buzzing with the kids' nervous excitement about performing, then bursting into applause for each group of dancers, actors, 6th grade Math Jeopardy contestants and students including Tyler Fernandez (pictured below), who dramatically read their original poetry.

Among all of the talent on hand, I was particularly struck by BELL drama instructor Andre "Mr. A" Bell and his drama troupe. Mr. A's drama workshops, as he described in his introduction, are built on a philosophy of having students write and perform from personal experience. During their expanded learning time at this MS ExTRA school, students come together to discuss every-day social issues they experience firsthand. Based on those conversations, they write their short plays, cast and perform them.

Part of what drew Mr. A to become a BELL community educator is that he himself benefitted from an arts enrichment program. He's an alumnus of Positive Youth Troupe, a musical theater company that performs throughout New York City.
Image removed.
I watched Mr. A work the cafeteria like a master director, herding performers and calling out short stage directives. His students stood tall, projected their voices and perfectly delivered their lines. They were utterly convincing in their roles -- ranging from rabble-rousing student to stoic principal -- which must've been the result of Mr. A's instruction that "acting is being honest in an imaginary world."

Though the weather outside still felt wintry, inside IS 143 -- where kids debuted their new skills and cheered each other on -- it was already spring.

- See more at: http://expandedschools.org/blog/setting-stage-mr#sthash.YqXnWhL4.dpuf