Consider your Audience (& each other)

Planning a Percy Jackson play & finding non-violent inspirations

By Dawn Velez

Since the beginning of the school year, the Kindergarteners found a fascination with monsters. I wanted to explore the idea of monsters in storytelling because it can be open to more than one interpretation possible by imagining a creature of your own rather than the limited characteristics and storyline of commercialized characters. Unfortunately, all the children’s art, dramatic play, and ideas for writings that I was seeing had to do with Pokemón and Sonic, so I tried to figure out how to introduce interesting new characters.

I was out for two months with an injury, and I spent a lot of time reading books, including chapter and middle-grade books. When I got back, I decided to find a story to share with the Kindergarteners to promote a love for reading rather than only referring to shows on TV. I read the Percy Jackson series, and I was reminded of how much the Olive Room children loved monsters. I knew they would love the mythical creatures in Greek Mythology that were incorporated in Percy Jackson. In the spirit of our Reggio Emilia philosophy, I wanted to take the children’s lead.

When I returned in January, I introduced an illustrated version of Percy Jackson’s The Lightning Thief. Over a month, what were once drawings of Sonic the Hedgehog were now replaced by drawings of mythical 3-headed dogs and shoes made out of clay for Hermes. Soon children were asked to act out this story. Diego decided to start writing his own adapted script. By the second month of exploring Greek gods and mythical creatures, I decided to take a step back from Greek Mythology and get into more diverse stories from other countries.

We began to read folk tales from Africa, South America, Asia, Australia, and the Pueblo Indians in North America. They became emersed in making props and costumes for Gerald McDermott’s stories and performed plays for other classes. During the rehearsal of our second play, “Arrow to the Sun,” it became very chaotic with noise from backstage and actors trying to direct while playing a character. Darryl was in our class observing, and we asked him to be our audience to give feedback. Unfortunately, he felt distracted by all the noise and lost focus and interest in the storyline from his perspective. It seemed that once the actors did their part, they didn’t consider those who were on stage. Did they want their audience to enjoy their play? The answer was yes, which means we had to consider our audience and each other.

All the while, Diego, Tyler, Marcelo, and Quincey continued working on Percy Jackson costume pieces and props for a play. In Writer’s Workshop and in their free time, Diego kept working on his script. Considering who our audience would be, we decided to change some of the scenes for any younger or sensitive audience members. We did not want them to be scared while watching. So first, they decided to make the monsters look cute. And then they decided on a language, instead of the inappropriate language they put, “You’re going down!” And then they considered the violent parts, in particular, Percy pulling out the minotaur horn. The horn gets stuck in the tree in their story, and then the horn falls to the ground, and they kicked it away.

After we completed our planned projects for the year, the opportunity arrived to bring all their hard work to fruition. Instead of a play, they filmed each scene. During Scene 1, with Diego, Tyler, Quincey, and Marcelo, I saw so much pride in their eyes as it all came together. The next day we filmed Scene 2, and after filming, they continued to work on props and costumes for Scene 3. Some conflicts arose, and they were hitting and kicking each other and throwing props. Others were acting out fighting scenes, and it was getting too rough. That’s when it was time to re-group to discuss what they were getting out of these stories besides the violence.

In our discussion, I described my observations of their physical ways of solving problems and the rough ways they were playing. All behavior reminded me of actions in the Percy Jackson story. I asked them what their favorite parts of The Lightning Thief book were, and I made three columns: Violent, Non-Violent, and Not Respectful. Unfortunately, most children had discovered the Percy Jackson movies on Disney Plus. They were referring to the movie more than the book. We took a closer look at their favorite parts to see what they were most inspired by. They were keen on the fact that I was looking for the non-violent parts.

The next step was writing a collaborative story inspired by their favorite non-violent parts of “The Lightning Thief.” Here are the parts:

✦ Ares riding a motorcycle

✦ When Percy went into the water to heal himself

✦ The Lightning Bolt

✦ Capture the Flag: their one rule in the game “no killing,” running & getting the flag

✦ Saving the mom

When I asked what the title of the Collaborative Non-Violent Story should be, Diego said, “Protesting Black Lives Matter.” It’s not what I expected, but we went from there…

Protesting Black Lives Matter by Olive Room 2020-2021

There was a person named “Black Lives.” (Quincey) He is friends with Liza Koshy. (Ellie) They are both brown and protest Black Lives Matter. (Joaquin)

Liza rides her motorcycle to the beach to sunbathe. (Ellie)

Sharks were getting killed (Joaquin), like hammerhead sharks getting killed by guns (Alice)

and dolphins were getting hurt by trash (Ellie). *No killing allowed

They both decide to protest against bad treatment of animals. (summarized many voices

sharing similar idea)

A baby seagull goes crazy because he’s scared of the water. (Isabel)

They study to protest and the protest made it worse during a thunder storm. (Ellie)

There’s flags that say, “No trash allowed on the beach!” (Marcelo)

Hammerhead sharks bite the guns so they don’t kill anyone (River) and the baby seagulls go under the water to be healed and to save their mom. (Tyler & Dawn)

Black Lives and Liza Koshy clean-up the trash. (Ellie) THE END.

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