Guest blog from Workshop Leader, Donna Patton
Reggie escorted five girls into the back office at Lift for Life gym. The office was small and crowded, full of files and donated items like gloves and mouthwash. Boys loudly chattered and played basketball on the other side of the thin office wall. The girls, ranging from 4th to 9th grade, had shown up at the gym for an open door after school program focusing on athletics. They were, much to their dismay it seemed, being encouraged by Reggie to spend an hour in this office with me learning to write dialogue. The girls were polite but understandably wary and not pumped to participate. Reggie, the program manager at LfL, said that he or another adult from the gym would stay with us or the girls would run away. I had tootsie pops. Reggie left. The girls stayed.
We met five more times, every other week. The group was different each time, though there were a couple of consistent attendees. Hooray for Tanesha, a fifth grader who showed up every week with contagious energy. The girls came from a variety of schools and most did not know each other outside of the gym. In the course of six sessions, the young students learned to harness their desire to fall into prose and descriptive writing and paint a picture with dialogue. They wrote scenes about trick-or-treating, friendship and dancing. The Lift for Life ladies penned commercials about magic notebooks and electric blankets. One script involved a crab, an attorney by profession, requesting a dinner of crab legs for the third time in a week only to be admonished by his partner, a lion, for his cannibalism. A fifth grader and a ninth grader improvised a hilarious sketch involving a homeless man who wakes up in the back of a woman’s car convinced he has been living there for 27 years.
After a hesitant beginning, we ended up having a good time imagining, writing and filming bits of our work to include in a video journal. The dialogue workshop participants were able to explore themes they enjoyed, master the skill of writing dialogue, and hone their ability to communicate effectively. They collaborated well, giving and receiving ideas and advice from each other. Next semester, thanks to YourWords STL’s fantastic mission to amplify the voices of Saint Louis youth, we will spend eight weeks exploring the notion of using dialogue to tell a story. We hope to synthesize some of our thoughts and create a couple short films in less than eight hours!
Life is a song-sing it. Life is a game-play it. Life is a challenge-meet it. Life is a dream-realize it. Life is sacrifice-offer it. Life is love-enjoy it. - Sai Baba
Donna Patton is a teaching artist who works with visual, dramatic and literary arts. She holds a B.A. in drama and a M.A.T. in multidisciplinary studies. She has instructed for COCA for 16 years and has taught playwriting in a variety of settings including the nationally recognized WiseWrite program. Donna also works with Circus Kaput and assists atypical learners for Special School District. She loves to watch students learn to wield words.