Students Share in the Magic of Storytelling

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image2New Residencies through The 5th Avenue Theatre
By Anya Rudnick, Education Engagement Specialist

I am always nervous the night before teaching a new class. Will the students like me? Will they behave? Will the classroom teacher support the work of a teaching artist they have never met? These are the questions that swim around my brain until the wee hours. But in the morning, when I finally meet the students, all of these late-night fears drift away and I find the pure joy in teaching young people the skills to express themselves, find their voice, and tell their own stories.

This fall, I have had the opportunity to work with students from Kindergarten to 12th grade through some new and exciting residencies.  One is a partnership with a Seattle elementary school to teach 21st century skills—communication, collaboration, creative and critical thinking, and perseverance—through theater. Another is the “I Am An Islander” project, a collaboration with the national tour of Come From Away. In both residencies students are learning the skills to bring their stories to life.

IMG_2166At Madrona Elementary, students are learning about theater as a collaborative art form and discovering ways to bring their stories to life. In a recent 4th grade class, students were working with their classmates to share personal stories of bravery and strength. As they worked together to explore how to creatively present stories that ranged from helping out a sibling during a difficult transition to school, to facing a personal challenge to swim across the deep end of a pool, I heard one student shout, “I love expressing myself!”  The classroom teacher and I gave each other a knowing smile. We both understood in that moment, the power of theater to give young people a voice.

IMG_2158Provided with the generous support of Kenny and Marleen Alhadeff, the “I Am An Islander” project includes eight high schools in the greater Seattle area. Taught by professional teaching artists, students are learning interviewing and storytelling skills – collecting stories from family, friends, and members of their community about their experiences surrounding the events of September 11, 2001. Using the same model for gathering stories used to create the musical Come From Away, students are engaged in storytelling, cross-cultural communication, and community building. Each 8 week residency will culminate with a final project that reflects the themes the students are exploring—what makes a community and how to make the world a kinder and gentler place.  The final projects will be posted on both the Come From Away and 5th Avenue websites later this year.

I am enjoying the opportunities to bring musical theater to students throughout the region. While I still get nervous each time I enter a new classroom, there is often a moment during the class, where I take a step back and watch in awe as students work creatively and collaboratively to speak their truth and tell their stories. And always, after class, I am energized and ready for the next day.


Each year, The 5th‘s educational programs make a tremendous impact on about 75,000 young people. These programs use the power of musicals to change young lives and create empathy for others. They engage young people in the transformational power of musicals and the professional industry that makes them possible.

Please consider making a gift to The 5th Avenue Theatre to support these programs today.

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