AU Theatre Students and Elementary Schoolers “Lift Every Voice”

“Lift Every Voice- A Celebration of African-American Praise Poetry” was the culminating event in a month long project organized by the Department of Theatre and the Extended Day Program at Loachapoka Elementary School. The program is a community and civic engagement initiative developed by Daydrie Hague, Associate Professor of Theatre and Diversity Officer for the College of Liberal Arts.

Professor Hague’s students, Senior BFA Performance majors, conducted a series of vocal performance workshops for the Loachapoka students in which they explored  voice and acting techniques and participated in the study, rehearsal and public performance of African-American praise poetry. Praise poetry has traditionally served as a means of passing on the history, language, culture and ethics of a community to the next generation.

“I enjoyed working on African American poetry because I was learning just as much about it as the kids about each poem and poet. At first I was not really excited about working with these kids because none of them seemed really interested in any of what we were doing. But the more and more I got to know each student, I realized that they were just shy and nervous and that what I was doing was really important. These kids grew up quite differently than I did, but they are extremely smart and just need more one-on-one attention. It was a great feeling knowing that I was giving that to them. I always knew that I loved working with kids, but I was reminded just how much I loved it when I watched them perform and show off their hard work for their peers. They were so proud of themselves, and I was proud of them and of myself for helping them get to where they were.”  ~ Mallory Porter


“Mostly I found this experience one of empowerment.  My responsibility as an artist, as a student of the world, and as a citizen of this country–especially when we lack so much in cultural and artistic education–leads me to help further the education of younger generations. I’m no longer the child who is going to be leading one day. I am the young adult about to become part of the leading generation, and it is now time to teach others. I found that I want to use my ability and opportunities to engage as many as possible in appreciating and furthering the culture of art and the world around us. ~ Jamie Yates

“In teaching the basic steps of my craft to these kids to help them adjust to the unusual experience for performing for others, I learned a great deal about not only my art form and how it affects my life, but also how it can affect others. We saw incredible growth  in the children from the first day to the final performance, and we watched them grow confident in themselves with their ability to communicate effectively in front of a large group of  their peers. Watching the kids perform, I could not help but be struck by how much courage they showed, because I am not certain I could have had the confidence to stand in front of my peers and unabashedly taken ownership of poetry when I was their age.” ~ John Tourtellotte.


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