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King School

An independent day school educating students PreK-Grade 12

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Using Theater to Explore Emotions

Grade 5’s recent production of “The Claw” presented an opportunity to perform on stage and explore the emotions that come with significant changes. With moving up from Lower to Middle School on the horizon, the play was a perfect vehicle for students to process the feelings such transitions can bring. 

On Friday, February 3, friends and family enjoyed performances in the Performing Arts Center of the play which tells the story of stuffed animal friends inside a claw game. Most toys are excited about the idea of being picked and getting out into the world for a new adventure. But Dot is desperate for things to stay the same. Throughout the play, the characters navigate concerns, including the idea of unfamiliar places and the fear of losing friends.

“That theme is one of the major reasons I chose the show,” said Performing Arts teacher Amy Darnton. “Moving from Lower to Middle School, students are transitioning to a larger world.  One of the strengths of theater education is the opportunity for students to enter into a new world and grapple with sometimes scary and uncertain ideas by acting them out behind the safety of the ‘fourth wall.’”

The company behind the play, Beat by Beat Press, creates musicals specifically for upper elementary students, with themes and melodies appropriate for fifth grade voices. 
“By acting out characters who are facing challenges, students build empathy and possibly even try on ways of thinking and being, which they may not have the courage to do in their own lives,” said Darnton. “It can be transformative.”

Stepping into the spotlight is also metamorphic. Though hesitant at first, Darnton saw huge progress by the time of the performances as they grew to speak, sing, and move with incredible enthusiasm.

“There were other students who were shy and uncertain at the start,” she said, “and by performance day had really gained confidence. They were making big physical choices, and speaking and singing solo lines with character.”

Watch the performance on YouTube here

View photos of the performance here