Adventure and Spontaneity in YIKES!

By Tal Etedgi

Photo by Chianan Yen

I walked into the Provincetown Playhouse, signed in for the YIKES! audition, and waited a few minutes until I was called in. Walking down the steps of the theater, I was approached by Tony Graham, a wonderful director and teacher from England. He shook my hand, introduced himself, and asked me to sit down and talk about myself. At other auditions I’ve been to, I’ve felt that they were so rushed and that the auditors aren’t always listening to you so I appreciated that Tony listened to me and made me feel comfortable.

It was such an honor to receive a callback, and to be cast as the “Grandma” in YIKES! After reading the script, I was sure I had come across the most obscure and out of this world TYA musical. With that, rehearsals began, and we went right into the bazaar world of Grandma, Solomon (the grandson), Mary (the granddaughter), Baby, Zipper (the dog), and of course the Wakikata (characters from the Japanese tradition, known to be the assisters on stage who served as our obstacles, ancestors, and guides through our trek).

In rehearsals, Tony led the cast through collective warm-ups and exercises such as singing “Yonder Come Day” and a game in which one person was the choir director conducting the rest of the cast through sound. After the first week of rehearsals, everyone felt very connected and fully embraced this strange and obscure musical. Zipper, played by Gus Jacobson, was on all fours, while Mary, the ridiculous and angry teenager became snootier by the day.

Photo by Chianan Yen

When performances came around, I was eager to see how the students would react. After every school performance we gathered the entire cast and crew onstage, and had a Q & A session with the students. I’m sure I can speak for the cast when I say that we were blown away, and completely amazed by all of their questions and thoughts which included: “Where did the Grandma go?” “Who is going to take care of the children now that Grandma’s gone?” “Are the Wakikata angels?”

Being a part of YIKES! instilled so much adventure and spontaneity in my acting, and I want to thank Tony that as well as for the trust he had in the cast to put on this beautiful production, and the passion he has for theatrical journeys. I feel that from the moment I auditioned, to the end, the journey was strong, and powerful. The cast went beyond any expectation with this musical, and I no longer consider this show “obscure,” but as a beautiful piece of theatre that has a lasting effect on both young children and adults.

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Yikes! was presented at the Provincetown Playhouse in February 2012 featuring book and lyrics by Bryony Lavery, music by Gary Yershon, and direction by Tony Graham.

Letters to Grandma: YIKES! in the Classroom

by Alissa Crea

Undergraduate student Tal Etedgi appears as Grandma; Photo By Chianan Yen

During the week leading up to YIKES!, my cooperating teacher and I used the Teacher’s Resource Guide to help prepare students for the performance in order for the students to fully connect to the plot and themes of the play.

We implemented two of the recommended pre-show lessons: “Family Meal,” an improvisation activity helping students to make the fundamental connection between the main characters in YIKES! and members of their own families, as well as the pre-show lesson “Overcoming the Frights,” in which students created and drew their own frights and as a group decided together how they can overcome each fright.

During the show, I saw our first grade students stretching their necks to see the stage. Many students were commenting on the action during the performance which only lead to a richer discussion during the post-show debrief with the cast at the playhouse.

Sample student work

During the following week, first graders took part in the post-show activity “Letters to Grandma,” in which the students took on the role of one of the characters in the play and wrote a letter to their no longer present “Grandma” in their chosen character’s point of view. The letters that were produced during this activity were incredible! They were each extremely articulate and compassionate. It was very evident that each student had their own interpretation of the play, but came to this understanding with concrete, supportive ideas – a long-lasting skill for every child. The ideas and themes within YIKES! were relatable to so many students’ lives that we have been able to tie these same ideas and themes into many of our additional lessons.

Sample student work.

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Every semester, the Program in Educational Theatre hosts two free matinees of their mainstage productions for school children in the New York City area. Teacher’s Resource Guides are created by staff in the program and distributed for use in the classroom with preparatory and reflective activities. An archive of past resource guides is available here: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/music/edtheatre/archive

Dr. Kim, Byoung Joo

Dr. Kim, Byoung Joo

Byoung-Joo Kim, is a drama/theatre practitioner, researcher, and educator who has been working across the continents.  Born and raised in Seoul, Korea, he decided to study drama/theatre in New York City.  There he met great mentors and influences, such as Lowell Swortzell, Philip Taylor, Nellie McCaslin, Maxine Greene, Frances Rust, Nancy Smithner, and Chris Vine, those who eventually changed Byoung-Joo’s vision of drama and his career path.  Byoung-Joo worked as drama teaching artist (a.k.a. actor-teacher) for the renowned Creative Arts Team (CAT) under the artistic/educational leadership of Chris Vine.  For more than four years, he devised diverse drama curriculum, consulted teachers and administrators, and implemented issue-based drama workshops for children, students, parents, and teachers around NYC and beyond.  The excellence of CAT drama work, combined with the talented devotion of the colleagues, strongly reinforced his passion for drama education and trained him to grow not simply as practitioner but also as artist and educator.  Byoung-Joo earned M.A. in 1998 and eventually his Ph.D. in the program of Educational Theatre from New York University in 2005.

Upon returning to his native Korea, Byoung-Joo began his long-planned dream to introduce and spread out diverse and at times challenging drama and arts education in Korea.  With a small group of young drama/theatre artists and educators, Byoung-Joo founded PRAXIS, a clear reminder of his view on drama education – a combined endeavor of action and reflection, practically, practice and research.

His first project, TIE “A Big Blue Whale’s Dream” (2005) touched on a sensitive issue of disability awareness and inclusion in Korea. The project received grants from government and regional arts agencies and visited primary schools for two years.  Byoung-Joo and PRAXIS then continuously developed a series of participants-centered and socially challenging Forum Theatre works on diverse social and educational issues. “The Butterfly Effect” (2008) tackles on Korea’s serious social issue of ‘intense competition’ for young people.  “Mom, we’ve got another baby” (2009) challenges the dilemma of low-birth rate and child care.  “Stop! Let’s help Mrs. Baek” (2010), devised and performed by the senior citizens dealing with the issue of the elderly in Korea.

Byoung-Joo and PRAXIS also have worked on projects for specific groups of socially marginalized: participatory drama programs for teenagers; senior theatre programs for the elderly; and interactive drama programs for young children are among them. Since 2010, “Applied Theatre project with the Homeless” has been one of the hard-working and meaningful projects for PRAXIS. It has grown into a forming of a homeless theatre company ‘Yeon-Feel-Tong’. In 2012, PRAXIS devised and implemented TIE program on school violence “Eyes Wide Shut? Eyes Wide Open!” to nearly 30,000 middle school students. It was a part of an unprecedented, largest public project funded by Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.  In 2013, Byoung-Joo led PRAXIS to a new challenge by directing a large-scale theatre production “The Forgotten”.  The production combined grave historic facts with delightful imagination of early Korean independence fighters during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1920’s.

As a researcher and educator, Byoung-Joo has maintained his delicate balance with his time as practitioner.  He has published a number of research articles in academic journals including RIDE, presented keynotes and papers at international conferences in Taiwan, AATE in Vancouver, and IDEA in Hong Kong and Paris.  He first introduced the ‘applied theatre’ to Korea by translating of <Applied Theatre> by Philip Taylor in 2009 and organized a 3-day “Applied Theatre National Workshop and Conference” in 2010.  His primary research interests are drama/theatre education, TIE/Forum Theatre and Applied Theatre practices, professional development, and qualitative research on drama and arts education.

Currently, he is the assistant professor and program director of Graduate Program of Educational Drama/Drama Education at Seoul National University of Education (SNUE), still the only academic graduate program of the title in Korea.  Byoung-Joo is the proud founder and has been Artistic & Education Director of PRAXIS for 10 years.  Since 2011, he has been Vice President of Korea Association of Drama/Theatre Education (KADE).  In 2013 IDEA World Congress in Paris, Byoung-Joo received an honour of being elected as Vice President of General Meeting Committee (GMC) for the year 2013 – 2016.

Kim, Byoung Joo (Ph.D.)

Associate Professor & Program Director,

Program of Drama Education

Graduate School of Education

 

Director,

Center for International Cooperation and Education,

Seoul National University of Education

 

Artistic & Education Director

PRAXIS

Institute of Drama/Theatre and Education

 

E-Mail: praxis@snue.ac.kr dramapraxis@gmail.com

Mobile: 82-10-9961-3316

 

Last Updated: 2015. 10.20

 

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