Art Talk Monday

Drama Warehouse Lights Up the Sunshine Parish
by Jessica Slaughter, NCLAC Educational Coordinator

NCLAC is making plans for its annual program, Drama Warehouse, to be held this April at the Jackson Parish Library in Jonesboro. Drama Warehouse is part of our MARK programming, Making Art Reach Kids. These programs encourage creativity in our youth through creative workshops, educational programs, visiting artists, and touring exhibits. Drama Warehouse is a month-long workshop that pairs literacy and drama. Since 1994, NCLAC has presented Drama Warehouse in Lincoln, Jackson, Bienville, Claiborne and Union parishes. Traditionally, the program has focused on the basics of theatre, from auditions to performance. This year’s line-up for the Jackson Parish Drama Warehouse includes a literacy component based on Louisiana’s rich, oral history.

Literacy leads to academic success, and research shows that dramatic activities increase literacy. With the addition of Louisiana’s oral history, this year’s program will be very exciting indeed, offering a unique setting for Jackson Parish youth. North Louisiana folk tales offer a means of pairing literacy and theatre, in addition to preserving and continuing our region’s important storytelling traditions. Using the text of Swapping Stories: Folk Tales from Louisiana, participants will use creative dramatics to breathe new life into the stories. The Sunshine Parish’s own Jimmie Davis, former Louisiana governor and musician, has two stories included in the book. What better way to encourage an appreciation for their cultural history, than to have students act and elaborate upon stories that have been passed through generations?

Jackson Parish high schools have limited arts programming. Often the available arts education is only for those who qualify for gifted and talented. This poses a problem, as scholarly research shows that students who participate in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. They are more likely to exhibit leadership and to develop a confident, solid work ethic. The students of today will be the adults of our community tomorrow.

As parents, we want the best opportunities for our children. As community members, we want to see our towns thrive. Just as shopping locally keeps small towns alive, helping our kids paves the way for a brighter future. NCLAC needs to raise $1500 in our region to make the Drama Warehouse program happen at the Jackson Parish Library. As state and federal funding sources dwindle, arts education becomes more the territory of non-profits, as schools systems cannot afford to offer arts classes. As grants disappear, non-profits such as NCLAC must use generous donations from our supporters to do as much as we can for our 5-parish region. Tax-deductible donations for our Drama Warehouse workshop will help NCLAC pay our program coordinator and will provide supplies such as costumes and notebooks.

Coordinator Allie Bennett, theatre professional and owner of Stitchville, works with NCLAC on many of our MARK programs, and is a believer in the potential of children to achieve their dreams. At last year’s Drama Warehouse in Union Parish, Bennett used fairy tales for the literacy component, working with Spanish-speaking families to build on their language skills. Playwriting, acting and costuming were explored, and reading, writing and discussion skills were honed.

At NCLAC, we believe the visual, performing and literary arts are a necessary enhancement for all individuals and we seek to enrich the region by fostering opportunities for creative expression.

NCLAC is supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council. Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency.

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