Acorn Productions operates two playwriting-based education programs for students in Southern Maine: a four-week after school Playwriting Workshop for high school students, and a five-week after school Monologues Workshop for middle school students. Both programs serve a select number of students each year in Cumberland, York, and Sagadahoc Counties.
Acorn launched our first school education programs in 2018 in response to the absence of opportunities for high schoolers to explore playwriting and see themselves as writers. In most Maine middle and high schools, theater is a co-curricular activity in which students can participate as actors or technicians only. Playwriting is not only not taught in most schools, but many students have never been encouraged to see theater as a way to express themselves as writers and story-tellers. Our programs aim to fill that void in a unique way, going in-depth with small groups of students to build their confidence and capacity to express themselves in writing and performance.
Both the High School and Middle School programs are built to produce exceptional experiences for small groups of students, rather than trying to more broadly reach students but with less individual mentorship. The two programs work with only a select number of schools each year so that we can focus on quality of experience and maximizing student access to the professional teaching artists we work with. We believe Acorn can make the greatest impact on Maine’s students by going more in-depth with a small number of students to achieve a significant learning and personal growth experience.
Theater is a creative art form not only for actors, but a living art form for expressing the ideas and stories of today’s writers. In making these programs available to Maine youth, Acorn’s goal is to facilitate forms of creative self-exploration and expression that provide an effective means to build resiliency in uncertain times and create accessible spaces that feel safe for students to make bold artistic choices, and reap tangible emotional benefits.
High School Playwriting
The high school program goes in-depth with small groups of students to build their confidence and capacity to express themselves as writers and storytellers. We assign a team of 2 teaching artists to each school for a weekly, after-school playwriting workshop, conducted over 4 consecutive weeks. The workshops are focused, hands-on, and immersive. The high school writers each complete an 8-12 minute short play during the workshop, mentored by the teaching artists. When the plays are complete, we send a professional director to each school to collaborate with the playwrights to rehearse a “bare bones” showcase of their scripts, with student actors from the high school playing the roles.
Middle School Monologues
The middle school program is scaled for larger groups than our high school program, and shorter sessions. We assign a team of 2 teaching artists to each school for a weekly workshop, conducted over 5 consecutive weeks. Working with a group of 12-18 students, we focus on using improvisation and playwriting techniques to develop individual monologues. Teaching artists lead brainstorming and creative acting exercises that focus on moments of decision – a key concept in playwriting and in every young person’s life. The middle school writers each complete a 3-4 minute monologue, and work with teaching artists on performance techniques for presenting it. In the final session, students perform their monologues (with script in hand) for each other.