OTTAWA — Ottawa-Glandorf schools graduate Neil Macke, a theater graduate from Bluffton University and artistic department employee at the Cleveland Playhouse, helped bring the Cleveland Playhouse Classroom Matinee touring program to Ottawa Elementary this week.
The Classroom Matinee touring program uses theater, acting and drama, to breakdown racial and economic barriers between elementary students, said Classroom Matinee stage manager Xavier Khan.
The playhouse actors, Joe Johnson and Charity Means, performed two separate plays during their time at Ottawa Elementary.
“The first (play) is called Together,” he said. “Ideally, it’s meant for a Kindergarten to 4th-grade audience. It takes place in a classroom environment that touches on tones of respect and community and has brief undertones of police awareness and their involvement within the community.”
This play was commissioned by playwright Christopher Parks, said Macke. He used his experience in Cleveland schools to write the play so when it is performed at schools beyond that area children are exposed to the issues facing students beyond their hometowns, Macke said.
Tuesday they performed “Kicked,” which is an anti-bullying play and was written for a 5th through 8th-grade audience, said Khan.
In the afternoon, after performing the plays, Johnson and Means ran workshops in the classrooms. The activities for the workshops matched the themes of the morning plays, Khan said.
Ottawa Elementary Principal Audrey Beining said Macke made contact with her to initially discuss the idea of bringing the Cleveland Playhouse tour to the school.
“It worked out good because our Parent Teacher Organization was looking for a speaker,” she said. “We got an overview of the program but then had a conference call with him to get more information and make sure it would be relevant to our students.”
The PTO and Beining decided the program would be a good fit for the school because the plays explore important social issues facing all students in a fun and engaging way. The themes the plays touched on also connect with the 23 Essentials for the Titan Take Over program Ottawa-Glandorf schools implemented as a way of teaching children important personal qualities needed as adults, Beining said.
“After the play this morning I got some reactions from some of the students,” Beining said. “They were grinning and some of them said they liked it and it was really cool.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362