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Stadium play wins "Best" award

September 28, 2011 - By Olivia Shumaker

Special Writer for The Review

Greek theater is an award-winning success in Lake Orion.

From Zeus to a super burrito, fourth-grade students at Stadium Drive Elementary last year staged their own comedies and tragedies, with an award winning outcome.

The school recently received one of the Michigan Association of School Boards' 2011 Michigan's Best Award in the creative and media arts category for its Ancient Greek Theatre One-Act Festival. Teachers, administrators and school board members will accept the award in a ceremony on Oct. 29.

Each fourth grade class wrote six, one-act plays, each either a comedy or a tragedy. Drama instructor Karey Hart went over the difference between a comedy and a tragedy in class, then selected students to be playwrights, directors and actors based on their interests and where she believed they would best perform.

Each playwright created his or her own story for the script; the only guideline being that comedies had to be set in the present and tragedies had to be mystical tales set in the past.

The comedies ranged from game shows to American Idol- themed stories, while the tragedies included a Civil War tale.

One of them was called 'The Super Burrito' - a comedy about getting the super burrito at Sagebrush Cantina in Lake Orion," said fourth grade teacher Correy Haddad.

Ancient Greek Theatre has been a mainstay at the school for a while. Students were taking part in the program for two years before they got the chance to write their own scripts in fourth grade. "It's what they've built up to," said Haddad.

While Greek theater is not something that most people would associate with an elementary school education, fourth grade teacher Theresa Ratkowiak explained it is actually a part of the Stadium curriculum, which includes mythology and Greek studies.

"It was a really neat way to get the subject across to students rather than reading a book," said Ratkowiak. "It came alive for them."

The program also fits nicely into the Stadium theater program, where a great deal of modern theater techniques can be traced to Greek theater.

In addition, other art forms, including dance and music, were integrated into the overall experience, with students singing and dancing. Haddad said dance instructor Florence D'Annunzio did a lot of period research and then adapted it for the kids.

As for the award, it was no cakewalk. Hart completed an extensive application, conveying what was unique about the Ancient Greek Theatre One-Act Festival, what critical need was served and how the program impacted students.

In addition, fourth grade teachers contributed student test data showing how well students were reading, and all of their scores had improved since before the program.

"Every student in fourth grade was involved and felt great about it, and know they were a part of something so special," Ratkowiak said.

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