With the generous support of the Madison Public Library Foundation, the Bubbler hosted Whoopensocker! - a Theatre LILA arts education program designed for elementary students - at the library this summer. Developed by Dr. Erica Halverson, UW-Madison School of Education, Whoopensocker! focuses on creativity, expression, writing and collaboration. It is a dynamic community building experience for the whole class using a combination of performing and creative arts exercises.
Usually a residency type program in MMSD schools, Whoopensocker partnered with the library to try something new. We hosted four workshops around Madison this summer - 2 open to the public at the Pinney and Sequoya libraries and 2 for targeted groups at the Hawthorne and Meadowridge libraries.
Children in each of these locations created, acted out, and wrote short stories and skits. The skits from all of the workshops were then compiled but the Whoopensocker teaching artists into a cabaret style show complete with costumes, props, and musical accompaniment, performed later in the summer at the Central and Sequoya libraries.
While the workshops at the Hawthorne library were easy for our community partners at the Goodman Center and Salvation Army to attend, we needed more space for the performances. But getting to the Sequoya and Central presented a transportation barrier. We were so happy that with our mini grant from the foundation, we were able to reimburse the centers for transportation and cover their downtown parking costs, allowing their students to attend.
We hosted 81 kids at our Central performance and 45 at our Sequoya performance, many of the the writers and creators of the show. There were skits about mysterious piece of burned toast, a strange purple dust that turned a whole town into zombies, dogs that do magic tricks, and a dairy cow that escaped a farm to open her own gourmet milk stand in the city.
The Whoopensocker teaching artists are an amazing group of people. Their excitement was contagious (as the pictures from the Sequoya library workshop show!), they were also patient and generous with the kids, especially those who were less comfortable with the writing portion of the workshops.
At the Sequoya performance, the little girl who was the writer of the escaped dairy cow skit was late to the show. Her entire family - mom, grandma, and siblings - were with her, but they missed her skit. At the end of the show, Erica made a big show of bringing her up and introducing her to the crowd before the actors did her skit in a special encore performance so her family could see it.
Also as a part of the mini grant, the library purchased blank t-shirts and Carlee Latimer of the Bubbler created Whoopensocker! silk screens for us to print the shirts at our two performances. All of the actors (and their families!) were able to take home "swag" from their experience. We also were able to print Whoopensocker! on all kinds of things for our teaching artists - from bandanas to jackets to dresses - as an added thank you.
Thank you MPLF for making this series of programs a reality for us this summer!
The first agreement of Whoopensocker is "Every idea is a good idea." Teaching artists set the stage of support and respect, but also silliness. No idea is too big or too small. With this agreement set in place and modeled expertly by the teaching artist facilitators, kids' ideas blossom.
Kids share ideas for characters, settings, and props, and set goals for where their skits should go and what problems their characters should solve. They offer suggestions and advice for their Whoopensocker stories are not composed in isolation. By working together, and setting positive agreements for collaboration from the beginning, children writing a Whoopensocker story work together. They brainstorm characters and imagine how they would move, talk or react to different situations. That way, when they sit down to write their own stories, they have the inspiration and ideas from the group to build on.
Whoopensocker stories are not composed in isolation. By working together, and setting positive agreements for collaboration from the beginning, children writing a Whoopensocker story work together. They brainstorm characters and imagine how they would move, talk or react to different situations. That way, when they sit down to write their own stories, they have the inspiration and ideas from the group to build on.
The other magically part of Whoopensocker, is that stories are designed to be shared with their broader community. The teaching artists who encourage and coach the young writers, take their unique work and use it to create a full fledged, original production. It was awesome to see several of the Whoopensocker participants and authors in the audience at the productions we held at the library. They were incredibly proud to see what they wrote shared with their families and their communities.
The Bubbler was also delighted to share its expertise to collaborate with Whoopensocker and the community by screen printing Whoopensocker swag at each of the events. A small hoard of Madison youth left the library in Whoopensocker gear, all the better to share their expeinces with their community.