FREE RESOURCES: Behind the Scenes [ Page 2 ]
Background info about the stories and themes of ArtReach's plays
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Learning through Drama: Sleeping Beauty
What is a Spinning Wheel Anyway?

Who invented the spinning wheel? As with many inventions of the era, no one individual can be credited for its creation. Unfortunately, no authentic spinning wheels survive from medieval times so primary evidence comes from images and written records of the era.

The spinning wheel evolved from ancient times when spinning was done on a spindle, which is basically a stick with a stone or weight attached.

ArtReach's Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty! - Musical Children's Play from ArtReach! This Wicked Fairy is a fun roles for talented kids!
Children's Theatre Company, ON - Greenbrier Valley Youth Theatre

One day, sometime between 500 and 1,000 A. D., somewhere in China, Persia or India and (perhaps inspired by the riches to be made in the Eastern silk trade), someone turned a spindle on its side, added a pulley and connected it to a drive wheel. The spinning wheel was born.

However, the invention met strong resistance by the time it reached Western Europe in the early 13th century. Wool merchants saw it as an impairment in quality by producing thread that was lumpy and uneven.

Medieval spinners often used a distaff, (a stick with a fork or comb on the tip used to hold long-staple fibers while spinning) to hold their fibers while they were spinning with a spindle. Although time consuming and awkward, the method produced more consistently even thread.

Nevertheless, the machine was simply more economical, saving almost half the work of hand spinning and, with the later addition of a foot pedal... the spinning wheel was off and running.

The Magic Flying Carpet
History of the Magic Carpet

Before people would consider space shuttles or even jumbo jets, they imagined a fantastic form of aerial transport - a magic carpet or flying carpet. These fanciful floorings could levitate great loads and travel at speeds then beyond fantasy. From their beginnings in the ancient world, legends of flying carpets have traveled across millennia and continents alike.

 The Magic Carpet in ArtReach’s Aladdin
Aladdin!  School Play for Kids to Perform!
Aladdin Cast, Solano Youth Theatre, CA

Origins of the Magic Carpet

Legend has it that biblical King Solomon owned a huge magic carpet - at least large enough to bring the King's entourage along. Several hundred years later, the enchanting queen Scheherazade told her husband stories of flying carpets in Arabian Nights. Fortunately, the queen's storytelling chops ended the king's practices of summarily beheading his wives after one night.

The Flying Carpet in Western Lore

These Eastern stories have enchanted the West for centuries; flying carpets pervade our popular culture today. At the end of World War II, the United States turned its aircraft carriers and other vessels into giant floating dormitories, dispatching them to bring servicemen home from far-flung lands. The armed forces dubbed this effort "Operation Magic Carpet."

Late 60s rock band Steppenwolf rocked the chart with a far-out (and perhaps pharmaceutically aided) "Magic Carpet Ride." More recently, animated plumbers Mario and Luigi contend with rug-riding enemies in the Super Mario Bros. video games.

While the original Aladdin legend has the bandit using a rug as a getaway vehicle in ancient Baghdad, Disney's westernized Aladdin whisks his midriff-baring gal Jasmine on a carpet-borne dream date. Sadly, this is not an option for modern sorcerers on the dating scene; in the world of J.K. Rowling's teen warlock Harry Potter, the Ministry of Magic has outlawed flying carpets.

The Legend of Mulan Story
The young female warrior of ancient China

The Legend of Mulan is based on an ancient Chinese poem that has been the inspiration for countless films, books and television productions around the world.   It tells the story of a girl who wishes to save her father from forced conscription in the Chinese army.  Dressed as a boy, she becomes a distinguished warrior and heroine.   Mulan’s spirit of adventure and courage makes it a beloved story for children everywhere.

The play begins with the Ancestors of the Fa family describing the country of China and its philosophy of "Yin and Yang”.  The Chinese Emperor is introduced and his assistant Momo instruct all in this presence to offer "respect and honor”.  The Emperor says that he has information that the country will be safe if they trust in him.

The Ancestors direct us to a valley where Mulan and her Little Brother are playing at sword fighting. Mulan is much better than her brother and dreams that one day she could grow up to be a soldier.  Father and family love her but disapprove of her aspirations and wish that she conduct herself with more feminine modesty that will lead to marriage.  Though she promises to do better, Mulan asks her father if her dream will ever come true.  Her father promises that it will.

But war is stirring up in the country and the Emperor issues a decree that every family must send one adult male to the army.  Little Brother is too young and Father is too old.  Mulan begs the family to let her go but they tell her it is against the law for a girl to serve.  Father is resolved to join, though the prospect of military life cannot be safe for him since he is in a frail state of health.

Mulan begs the Fa Ancestors to help her save her father.  They tell her that she must go and introduce her to the rabbit Pika, and the Dragon Imoogi, who will help her on her journey.  Imoogi tests the girl in martial arts and determines that she is worthy of the task.  In the morning, the Fa family wakes to see that Mulan has taken the horse and fled to take her place in the army.

Mulan, with Pike and Imoogi, travel to the Imperial Army camp.  Pika attempts to teach Mulan how to be like a man but Imoogi objects.  The dragon tells her that the way to convey strength is to summon the spirit of the sword within her own heart.

The army Captain Cheng attempts to ready his men for war.  Momo, the Emperor’s assistant is with Captain Cheng and believes the soldiers are of poor quality.  Captain Cheng says his problem is that there are not enough men.  Mulan introduces herself and shows him her superior ability to use a sword.  She tells him her secret is that she trusts in her heart as well as her head.  Captain Cheng is impressed and asks her to fight by his side in the coming battle.

Audience Becomes the Army! Defeats the Huns!
Martial arts are part of Mulan! Dragon Imoogi!
ArtReach's The Legend of Mulan

Great opportunities for students who study martial arts & acrobatics.

The Huns are headed by General Lu Bu who believes that Captain Cheng has secret plans and sends one of his men to discover them.  Captain Cheng has sent Momo with orders to the Emperor to send more troops.  The Hun soldier Yu Fie stops Momo on his journey, takes the orders and reports back to General Lu Bu.  With this information, the Huns now feel confident that they will win the battle.

But the Huns had not expected to encounter one such as Mulan (going by the boy’s name Me Lang).  Imoogi helps her and the audience conjure a chaos inducing storm.  Captain Cheng despairs and believes the storm will destroy his battalion’s chances.  Mulan reminds him to use his heart.  With Mulan’s encouragement he wins a sword fight with General Lu Bu.  Then, Mulan commands the army (audience) to rise and raise their weapons to the Huns, forcing a retreat.  Mulan is hailed as a hero.

However, Captain Cheng has been injured by General Lu Bu’s sword.  As Mulan nurses him to health, the Imperial soldiers tell her that she has been summoned to the Emperor, who wishes to honor her bravery.  Terrified that this event will reveal her secret, Mulan runs away.

At the golden Imperial Palace the Emperor asks to meet Me Lang but is told that the heroic soldier will not appear.  At last, Mulan does appear and finally reveals to all that she is not a male soldier named Me Lang, but a woman named Mulan.  Momo insists she be punished, but the Emperor prefers to honor her anyway.  He offers her gifts and honors but Mulan says she just wants to go home.

After the painfully long absence, Mulan returns to her beloved Father and the rest of her family.  They are overjoyed to see her again.  After greeting her they ask who is the person standing beside her.  It turns out that Captain Cheng has followed Mulan from the Imperial Palace to her valley home.  He asks her father for permission to marry her but Mulan says she has made up her mind.  Though she respects her father’s wishes this is her own decision.  She has decided to marry Captain Cheng.

The Ancestors welcome the couple into the Fa home and into the family that they represent.  They speak of the Chinese belief in yin and yang, offering their approval of the couple to be wed.

"The firm, the enduring, the simple, and the modest are near to virtue."
-- Confucius, The Confucian Analects

Riverview Students Perform We Are the Dream: the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Riverview Park Community School, Ottawa
By Karen McGillivray, Learning Support Teacher

Junior students in grades 4, 5 and 6 at Riverview Alternative School performed Kathryn Shultz Miller's play We Are the Dream:  The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. as a dramatic culminating activity to a term long unit on heroes in our lives and as a special way of celebrating Black History Month.

"A special way of celebrating Black History Month."
ArtReach's Musical Play: We Are the Dream the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Grades 4, 5 and 6 at Riverview Alternative School performed We Are the Dream

We Are the Dream is a dramatization of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and the civil rights struggle that took place during that period in history.  The play required the students to not only take on a role but to learn words to a number of spiritual songs.  Students reenacted painful events in Martin's young life that helped him develop the resolve to make a change in the world.  They showed how Martin and his wife Coretta returned to Alabama to lift their people up.  Particularly moving scenes involved students portraying the courageous Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat and the Montgomery bus boycott that followed as well as the Freedom March on Washington when Martin gave his famous and powerful "I Have a Dream" speech.  The students enjoyed preparing props, rehearsing and performing for a live audience.  They learned a great deal from the experience and are commended for doing a great job.

History Comes Alive for School Students
Drama brings the lessons of history into your heart

History is rich in drama and intrigue – perfect for children’s theatre scripts.  World famous playwrights, from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller, have used the events of true stories as a basis for their most exciting plays.

ArtReach’s plays AMELIA EARHART, ANNIE OAKLEY and LEWIS AND CLARK are just a few examples of plays that bring history alive for young audiences.  Very popular, reaching thousands of school students throughout the country, are the Cherokee plays YOUNG CHEROKEE and TRAIL OF TEARS.  These plays bring to life the myths of the ancient tribe and tell the tragic story of their removal from their native lands.

One Act Children's Plays - Young Cherokee
Western Carolina University Theatre in Education, Cullowhee, NC

ArtReach plays are well researched, fast paced, with exciting audience participation.  Many of the plays come complete with Study Guides to give teachers the resources for meaningful classroom activities that give a deeper understanding of history.

Looking for a subject for your next school tour?  Turn the pages of time and discover a world of thrilling drama!

The Story of Sadako
ArtReach’s A Thousand Cranes is based on a true story!

Sadako Sasaki was a Japanese girl living in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan (August 6, 1945). In 1955, at age 11, Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia, a type of cancer caused by the atomic bomb.

While in the hospital, Sadako started to fold paper cranes. In Japan, there is a belief that if you folded 1000 paper cranes, then your wish would come true. Sadako spend 14 months in the hospital, folding paper cranes with whatever paper she could get. Paper was scarce so she used the paper from medicine bottles, candy wrappers, and left over gift wrap paper. Her wish was that she would get well again, and to attain peace & healing to the victims of the world.

Sadako died on October 25, 1955, she was 12 years old and had folded over 1300 paper cranes. Sadako’s friends and classmates raised money to build a memorial in honor of Sadako and other atomic bomb victims. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial was completed in 1958 and has a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane. At the base is a plaque that says:

This is our cry
This is our prayer
Peace in the world

Fold A Thousand Cranes for Sadako
School Play for Children - A Thousand Cranes A Thousand Cranes - True Story of Sadako Sasaki
John C. Fremont Charter School, Merced, CA - Lansing Middle School, NY

Although Sadako died at a very young age, her legacy continues. To this day, the paper crane is probably the most recognized origami model. The paper crane is often given as a wish for peace.

Sadako's brother (Masahiro Sasaki), who is now over 70 years old, saved five of the original paper cranes folded by his sister when she was in the hospital. He hopes to donate the remaining 5 cranes to the the five continents of the world.

1990: In Seattle, Washington, USA, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Dr. Floyd Schmoe, built a life-size statue of Sadako. The statue was unveiled on August 6, 1990, 45 years after the bombing of Hiroshima. The statue is in the Seattle Peace Park and often has paper cranes draped over it. [Photo from] Unfortunately, not everyone is at peace; the statue was vandalized in 2003 and again in 2012. The statue has been repaired.

Why School Plays are Vital for Education
It's vitally important -- not an option

Almost every day we hear it from one of our teachers – my school is cutting back on the arts!   Now it’s your job to tell the powers that be why you absolutely must produce a school play this year!

Creative Thinking and Useful Play!  Kids learn how to use their own imaginations to confront daily issues and learning experiences.  Learning how to perform a fictional character and how to convey ideas on stage light a kid’s mind on fire.  An exciting rehearsal will spark inspired participation in class.

Teaches Kids to Work Together!  Kids learn to take time and show patience and cooperation with their classmates and friends that may never happen in a classroom sitting at their desks.  Students read, move and think together.  Rehearsing a play invites everyone to put down their phones and really listen to and enjoy interaction with others.

Builds Confidence!  Real confidence comes from real accomplishments.  Nothing is better for a child’s self-esteem than applause.  During rehearsal, otherwise shy kids may trigger positive reactions from fellow classmates.  Laughing, clapping, participating together helps kids find self-assurance and acceptance.

Improves Reading Skills!  Some kids are never going to sit down a read a novel.  But they will read a script because the script includes them!  Maybe a child is not clever and witty in real life, but for a moment he can be those things in front of an audience.  Suddenly they love good writing and reading.

School plays bring theatre into kids’ lives and improve their ability to learn and enjoy life.  This is not an option.  It’s vitally important to every child’s successful education.

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