If you ever doubted that fifth graders could deliver a performance aimed to educate you on an historical time period – you would have been happily wrong this spring. In April, Moncure School’s fifth graders transported their audience of discerning school mates, parents, and faculty to the Revolutionary War in an original performance about Chatham County’s pre-Revolutionary War Regulators. This amazing production was an example of Chatham Arts Council’s Chatham Artists-in-Schools Initiative, bringing professional artists into schools to support history, math, science, and language curricula.
“We like to use the arts to teach core curriculum subjects,” explained Serena Ebhardt, the “Eb” of EbzB Productions. “We think it’s a really interactive, fun, and joyful way to learn about dramatic art and a classroom subject.” EbzB Productions, the brainchild of theatre artists Ebhardt, and her co-founder, David zum Brunnen, is a fine example of the local artists participating in the Artists-in-Schools initiative across Chatham County.
What do these artists do? you may wonder. At Moncure School, EbzB Productions worked with fifth graders for about three months before arriving (with much hard work!) at the final performance. Ebhardt and zum Brunnen collaborated with teachers last fall to determine a curriculum-based topic that would be enhanced by performance arts. To gain knowledge about the topic, students interviewed local experts. “We try to help the students create an oral history based on interviews with local community members where the students are located,” clarified zum Brunnen. To do so, EbzB Productions found an appropriate panel of local experts, students determined what questions they needed answered to populate their research, and then they began the interview process. The panel formed to help inform the Regulators production consisted of Dr. Carole Troxler, Professor Emerita, Elon University, and Author (with a historical focus on The Regulator Movement in NC); Warren Dixon, Columnist, Writer and native of Chatham County (currently resides in Asheboro); and Cindy Schmidt, Chatham County Historical Association Board Member and Museum and Youth Events Coordinator (resident of Chatham County).
Students took notes, taped each interview, and transcribed them, before distilling the information to determine the most important pieces for consideration in the script. Many students lamented this was the hardest part of the process, but their hard work was well worth it. With the detailed facts on the Regulators, EbzB began developing a script – soon to be divided into parts and memorized by each student in the program.
Just like professional performance artists, these students participated in physical and vocal warm-up exercises prior to their performance debut. Jitters slowly but surely fell away as these ten- and eleven-year-olds put their game faces on and became brave Regulators from the 1700s, prepared to educate the audience through their unique performance.
Ebhardt remarked, “You can use performance arts to learn anything.” And that’s exactly what the fifth graders at Moncure School did. In a question and answer session following the performance, audience members were able to throw out various questions to the students. Exuberant from their performance, the students easily explained the significance of the Regulators, their impact on the Revolutionary War, and what they meant to Chatham County. There’s no doubt this creative, unique program is one that will make a lasting impact on all students fortunate enough to participate.
To help CAC grow the Artists-in-Schools initiative and reach our goal of having professional artists in every single elementary school in Chatham County in the 2018-2019 school year, click here.