Putting on a theatre production is an excellent model of formative learning by cycling through doing, getting feedback and adjusting. During Tech Week, the entire company gets to run the show in a controlled, no-risk environment. Mistakes happen. Less-than-stellar moments occur. They receive feedback on areas that need improved and immediately get the opportunity to try it again.
Of course, there's a real-world summative when the audience fills the house on opening night.
(There's a parallel here between teaching and theatre I've not realized before that needs further exploration. But that's another post for another time.)
However, notes after tech rehearsals are like drinking from a Big Gulp: there's a lot to process, but it's doable. And if notes after tech are like a Big Gulp, then the notes we received Saturday were like drinking from a firehose.
Waverly Drama is a member school of the Nebraska High School Theatre Awards program though Omaha Performing Arts. As a part of our membership, we are able to bring adjudicators to critique performances of our full-length plays and musicals. On Saturday night, a recently-retired and award-winning theatre educator and her set-designer husband came to adjudicate our performance. What was meant to be a 15 minute verbal follow up quickly turned into an hour+ masterclass in performance.
Some of our adjudicator's comments were things that the direction team had already told the company before, which reinforced many best practices for our performers. Many times, they explained the same concept in a different way that made it click for the cast. (Which also helped the direction team grow in our role, too.) They shared awesome things with our ensemble, our leads, our tech, our set, our music, our dancers, our costumers and our hair and makeup team for over 45 minutes. Then, they asked if we had any questions. Hand after hand shot into the air to get even more feedback about nuanced insights regarding their roles. Our entire company received and seized the opportunity to delve into the next level of their skills.
When I realized how much of our adjudicator's time we had taken, I dismissed the company so our guests could leave. When I did, though, members from our costume, hair and makeup teams swarmed our adjudicators to ask even more questions. They stuck around another 15 or so minutes to try and satiate our company's thirst for knowledge. I had to pry our students away from the adjudicators so they could leave!
At one point during the adjudicator's notes, I sat back and realized what an incredible learning event I was witnessing. These students cared enough about their roles in the company that they wanted to take every opportunity to expand their skillset instead of being satisfied with where they were. They bought into what we were doing and took complete ownership of their learning. They drank from a firehose of knowledge then asked for more.
Things like this happen all the time in our school community. Athletes and coaches, musicians and singers with their directors, club members with their sponsors and students with their teachers. Each time this happens, our students grow so big, they're never quite the same again. (In a good way.)