Over the course of this year, dog & pony dc artists have been working with students in Washington, DC on FROM: A You-Us History Project. We caught up with Ivania Stack, our Ringleader for Audience Integration, and E.L. Haynes Public Charter School teacher R’Kheim Young to find out what’s been going on.

What have the students been working on this semester?

Ivania: We have been working with students on a variety of FROM activities, including: interviewing each other about their favorite foods, games, after school activities, and their favorite clothes. They then work together using those answers to create a song. The students also go on sensory exploratory missions, traveling around their school (both inside & outside), noting sounds they hear and sketching what they see. Back in the classroom, they use these observations to perform the soundscape of their school, or to create tableaux of the life and objects of their street. Another key activity the students have worked on is recreating the experience of “cold” and using those same skills to brainstorm ways to recreate other more DC specific experiences, such as go-go music, eating local foods, or riding the Metro.

What do you find most surprising about their interactions/thoughts?

Ivania: I’ve been most surprised at how varied their responses are to the interview questions, from answers that are more universal to young people of this generation (playing video games after school), to very uniquely individual (“in my house my grandmother cooks spicy food!”), to the very DC specific (“I love mambo sauce!”). It’s also fun (and an important part of this project) when they discover that not every person knows what mambo sauce is, and that it’s part of what it means to be “from” DC. It’s also been fun to see how students who are just starting to learn about theatre and performance in school (taught by their awesome teacher Mr. Roc — R’Kheim Young) also pick up on ideas of incorporating the audience into their devised performances. Project leader Kerry McGee and Mr. Roc have found exciting ways of teaching students how to do this.

R’Kheim: I thoroughly enjoyed the collaboration with dog and pony dc through the FROM project. My students got the opportunity to begin to explore and understand what it meant to be Washingtonians. I believe this was the first time many of the students even began to think about what it means to be from the nation’s capital. The games and activities brought a new way to look at acting and being an “audience” member to our room, which I greatly appreciate. I’ve already started to incorporate more audience participation into my other classes as well. I look forward to continuing this partnership.

What are the students looking forward to?

Ivania: The students are really interested in learning more about Hawaii and the people who live in Honolulu. The FROM team is hoping to gratify this curiosity and excitement in our lesson plans moving forward.

When do the artists from HTY arrive? What are you hoping to accomplish during their trip?

Ivania: A group of amazing artists from the Honolulu Theatre for Youth are coming this June! From June 26th-29th, we will be having intensive dog & pony dc/HTY devising sessions together. With all of this artistic brainpower in the room, I am hoping we can create a working outline for the show, and devise and test components of this outline. Part of our devising will involve an exploration of quintessential DC experiences (especially those that our students value the most), and re-creating those experiences with an audience of invited guests.

We will be sharing these devising experiments on June 29th at 7pm!