Latin Art Inspires Students' Short Plays
Byline: Julia Neyman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A dozen fourth- and fifth-graders are gathered at the front of a classroom in Bancroft Elementary School in Northwest. They are brainstorming stage names that start with the same letter as their last names.
"I'm Terry 'Hollywood' Huynh," one says.
"I'm Rodrigo 'Utopia' Umanzor," says another, inciting "wows" from around the room.
The children are warming up for the main event of their 80-minute workshop: A group of professional actors from the Smithsonian's Discovery Theater has come to perform short plays the children wrote based on Latin American artwork they studied in class.
The Bancroft students, as well as children from Oyster Elementary School in Northwest and Lincoln Middle School in Northwest, have been viewing Latin American portraits dating from the pre-Columbian period to modern times. As they take in the art, they write reactions to the pieces.
"Some of them are becoming the person [in the portrait], some are imagining what the person is thinking or will do next, and some of them are describing what's going on as the portrait is being made," says Karen Zacarias, director of Young Playwrights' Theater, a performance education group working with the children to prepare the plays.
After the children are finished with their narratives, Ms. Zacarias will compile them into a cohesive one-hour play called "Retratos; Portraits of Our World."
This fall, Discovery Theater actors will perform the play as part of the Smithsonian's "Retratos: 2,000 Years of Latin American Portraits" exhibit, which debuts at the Smithsonian's International Gallery Oct. 21. The portrait exhibit will be the second of a three-part series sponsored by the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives to celebrate Hispanic heritage.
The play begins showing Sept. 30 and will mark the first time professional Smithsonian actors perform the work of children.
YPT has been working to help children learn through playwriting since it was founded 10 years ago by Ms. …