Artists Within Spotlight: Single Carrot Theatre Arts Integration in an Uprising

Forging community connections takes time, flexibility and mutual respect.  As a part of the Artists Within Coalition, Single Carrot Theatre (SCT) has been learning this first hand through teaching theatre in Baltimore schools and hosting weekend theater workshops for neighborhood youth in their 2600 North Howard Street location.  In January 2015, SCT began providing weekly workshops to high school students at the Community School in Remington.  They partnered with Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School in March to provide onsite, weekly theatre workshops in conjunction with Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle’s efforts to combine arts content and skills with other core subjects.

Building this collaboration began a year ago with a request from Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle to use SCT’s space for the school’s end-of-year closing ceremony for 5th and 8th graders. According to SCT Managing Director Elliott Ruah, “what was more important was our desire to connect with students and parents in the surrounding neighborhoods.  Not just to have them know  where the space is but for them to have a positive experience in our space.”

Creating the relationship with Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle required persistence.  “As actors and art educators, we knew our best strategy was to simply keep showing up,” Rauh said.  “Once the principal understood we were open and ready to help, we met with them once a week for five weeks in Fall 2014 to begin our work in Spring 2015.”

It was fateful timing.

When the Baltimore Uprising began in late April, SCT had been steadily working with the students, teaching them to express their emotions and thoughts through theatre exercises.  In the aftermath of the uprising, SCT staff saw their young performers reveal the impact of the unrest on their lives.

“We first didn’t want to force anything on them. We just wanted to help them reflect how they were actually feeling,” said Jessica Garrett, SCT’s Director of Public Relations & Education. “This was especially important because we are working with children from Pre-K to 14 years old.”

SCT asked students to express their thoughts using a writing exercise, answering the prompt, “I believe Baltimore is…”

Using a mix of tableaus and standing statues, they asked youth to physically express what they believed was happening in Baltimore, answering the prompt, “If Baltimore was a person, show me how Baltimore feels today?”

“So many students wanted to be  Freddie Gray,“ Rauh explained. “They knew that name. It was the take-away name…  Children directed each other and designated who the cops were, who the protestors were and what kinds of things they could throw.”

Students then analyzed the tableaus and identified what was happening.  Youth assigned their classmates as cops and protestors depending on the racial mix of the group.

In the final tableau, students were tasked to show Baltimore at peace.

“This was our attempt to create a curriculum that did not ignore what was going on,” Rauh said. “We didn’t want to sit them down and explain what the incidents were about.  We wanted them to show their understanding through their own bodies and reflection. For me personally, it made me feel more connected to the Uprising because I had a forum to see what the kids were taking away from it all.  I was blown away by how young some of the kids were and how aware they were of the dynamics of the situation.  Awareness starts early in Baltimore.”

SCT hopes to continue their collaboration with Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle throughout the upcoming school year.  Check out their website to know more about their work and to support their efforts.

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