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Danielle Kalivretenos

Intern/Mentor GT
Period 2/6
Writing a Musical Reflection
This year I have been lucky enough to participate in Centennial High Schools
Intern/Mentor program. I intern at CHS for our theatre arts teacher, Ms. Carlsen. More
specifically, I student teach in the musical theatre class. Throughout the year, I have taken on
many projects that involve teaching to the class. I started the year by choreographing and
teaching an ensemble number (You Cant Stop the Beat from Hairspray). My next project was
organizing the musical theatre class involvement in Centennials winter fine arts showcase, The
Winter Spectacular. This involved choosing the three songs we would perform, choreographing
one of the songs, and picking the costumes for each number. Once Winter Spectacular had
passed, two major events occurred for my internship. I began assistant directing our spring
musical The Drowsy Chaperone, and started teaching a unit to the class. The latter is my research
project for the Intern/Mentor class. I decided to teach the class how to write a musical.
After extensive research, I created a PowerPoint presentation entitled Writing a
Musical. I presented information on types of theatre (classical, switch, contemporary), script
layout, stage directions, plot, dialogue, characters, and rules for writing musicals. I created
assignments for the unit that would coincide with this presentation. I gave the students both a
minor and major project. The minor project involved the students analyzing three songs from a
given list for the objective of the song, characters involved, and theme. They had about two
weeks to complete this assignment (including time over winter break). The major project I made
for the students was writing a mini-musical. I split them into groups, and provided restrictions on
what they could do. Because there was already only a short time to finish the unit, I did not want

the students to have to start from scratch with their musicals. I came up with the idea originally
to have students randomly pick the main point of their plot from a hat. Ms. Carlsen helped me
incorporate this idea into the project by having me give each group a dilemma, and each student
a character trait and occupation. She had notecards labeled from a previous unit with each of
these choices. The students had to integrate these ideas into their show, but were allowed to shift
the focus to a different subject. For example, one of my students was a grieved farmer, but she
did not start out grieved. She began the scene happily painting, only to have her dreams of
becoming a famous artist crushed by a fine art appraiser (which led her to grief). Because they
are writing a musical and not a play, they needed to write songs into their show. In order to tie in
classical/contemporary theatre, each group would perform one classical song and one
contemporary song from a given list. Each type had ten song options. Finally, the students had to
turn in a final copy of their script for a grade that was to be formatted the same as it was
presented in the PowerPoint. The script needed to have a title page in which the title is in the
center, and all of the group members names at the bottom. Within the script, blocks of stage
directions would be tabbed/indented, characters names centered, and dialogue left justified.
This experience allowed me to see the class form a completely different point of view.
Because I had been on the other side (a student in musical theatre) for two years, I understood
more of what would interest the class than an outsider would. I know that students tend to zone
out during PowerPoint presentations, so in addition to taking notes, I asked them questions
throughout the presentation. Ms. Carlsen taught me to do this because I had never had a
PowerPoint that took more than 10 minutes to present. I was also able to get honest feedback
from the student perspective because I have close friends in the class. While Im usually not
nervous about performing in front of other people, I was a little anxious to teach to the class. I

learned to treat it as though I did not know any of the students (in my mind), so that I would be
fair about calling on people and partnering people for projects. I experienced first-hand how
disappointing it is when a student does not turn their work in on time. For this I followed Ms.
Carlsens late policy, which is a 10% reduction for every day it is late. There were two students
that did not turn in their song analysis, despite constant reminders of the due date. I spoke to
them individually and was told that they would bring it in the next day- which was a lie. I
reminded them every few days until they were finally unable to receive credit for the assignment.
It was also interesting to me that a few students did not show me the same respect they would a
teacher, because the majority of the students did. I understood that they were given little time to
complete their project with memorization, choreography, etc, but I did not have more time to
give them. This project was being used as their midterm, which was not a date I could change. A
few students brought this to my attention, and all but one respectfully accepted my answer that
they needed to find a way to make it work. That one student challenged my authority by
explaining that he had other real, more important subjects to study that would take up his time.
I held my own and told him that this WAS one of his midterms, and that he should respect it as
he would any other class. Ms. Carlsen later told me that I had done the right thing by sticking up
for myself and my unit. By the end of the unit, my students had worked extremely hard their
projects, and I am proud of their final performances. It was such an incredible feeling to see all
our hard work paying off. I had the students complete a review of the unit and my teaching, and I
was overwhelmed by all of the kind comments. The only major problem they had with the unit
was the time limit, though most of them understood that I could not have changed it. Now that
my project is completed, I am shifting my focus to assistant directing The Drowsy Chaperone,
and looking for a junior musical to direct for the One-Act Showcase in the spring.