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Booker Middle Drama Program Builds a Bridge Between Generations

by Christine Hopkins, VPA Coordinator at Booker Middle School

SARASOTA COUNTY, January 25, 2021 – At Booker Middle School, Visual & Performing Arts students in the Drama program are being taught the invaluable lesson of learning from their elders. That experience – in addition to learning – can also be one of teaching for these young people. And the same can be said for the elders who are there to teach; they can also be the ones that learn.

For the last three years, Booker Middle School (BMS) with Ann Morrison and Blake Walton of SaraSolo Productions have collaborated to build a bridge between generations. The goal was to create conversations between two often unheard populations: teenagers (in this instance, BMS Students) and elders, or senior citizens. BMS and SaraSolo Productions brought these two groups together to let them talk with each other and see what happens.

Carrie Mills, Drama and Musical Theatre teacher at BMS states: “We began this three years ago and at that point, the elders would come into the classroom and would have, what I like to call, a “speed dating” session where everybody got to meet everybody of the opposite group. Each teen would select the top three people that they wanted to work with based on these conversations. Afterwards, everyone was given a partner and the personal interviews began. In the meantime, BMS students were learning about interviewing skills, how to write a personal narrative, and what kind of questions to ask to get more details without prying. The first session is dedicated to the teens interviewing the elders and the second session is for the elders to interview the teens. In the end, every participant – teens and elders alike – creates a piece of solo theatre that is performed live. The teens write and perform a monologue based on their elders and the elders write and perform based on their teen. This year is a little different because everything is happening online, so we are performing with this same model but, to keep everyone safe, we are doing it on Zoom.”

Seventh grade student Jayelle McCarthy reflects on her experience and shares, “I wrote a monologue as my elder and it’s been really fun. My elder’s name is Dennis and we’ve really learned a lot about each other. He’s really kind and straightforward. This project is great for deep creativity and imagination and I’ve learned a lot about how life can have so much meaning.”

“Elder” Synia Carroll, an accomplished jazz singer who is well-respected in the Sarasota community, said of the collaboration: “Meeting Aubrey [her teen] has changed my life. Our connection was so sympatico that I would like to mentor her for many, many years in the future.”

The final performance – titled “The Bridge” – will be streamed on YouTube (private with a link) on January 26th at 7:00 PM and will be available for a full week following the premiere. To purchase a “pay what you can” ticket (with all proceeds benefitting the BMS VPA Theatre program), please visit the SaraSolo website: https://www.sarasolo.org/tickets (or type “SaraSolo” in your browser).