Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Cask of Amontillado

When I approached an 8th grade teacher in one of my schools about participating in a Read Around the Planet videoconference she asked me what that entailed. I told her that the students could do some kind of reading activity, like a skit or a book talk. The next time I saw the teacher she was all excited about a play that she was planning for her class RAP videoconference. They couldn't possibly be ready by the first week in March. There were costumes and scenery to be made and lots of rehearsing. This production would be ready by the first week in April. I assured her that her match teacher would understand and that she should communicate her plans by e-mail and see what the partner school was preparing. Although I don't recommend letting these videoconference's planning drag on for too long, I did see in this instance an enthusiatic teacher who needed MORE time. So, March came and went as did Read Around the Planet videoconferences. The two originally paired teachers had lost touch. But the play must go on. So, we found an 8th grade class in Arizona that had originally matched with another class and was still eager to share. There were a few snags along the way like kindergarten registration in AZ and spring break in NY but today April 29th almost two months to the day originally planned the play did go on. And what a play it was.
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe is is a murder story about a person being buried alive. It takes place during carnival time.This play was rich in acting, sound and special effects, costumes and scenery. It took almost as much time to do the scene changes as the scenes themselves. The production gave some challenges to our usual videoconferences. The camera needed to follow the action but also provide some drama. I felt more like a cinematographer! I don't know how much of the fog from the fog making machine was picked up by our Arizona audience or the sound of Amontillado cane tapping the floor but the play was meticulous in every way. Again the endless possibilities provided by videoconferencing is what is most apparent.
The class in Arizona had never read anything by Poe so for them this was an introduction to a new writer. The students in Arizona had their own bit of theatrics for our students as well. They wrote their own "Fairy Tales News Show" complete with re-enactments. There was Cinderella suing the prince in court for her lost Prada slipper. A search for the Muffin Man. A weather report about a tornado at the home of the three little pigs and on and on. They were amazingly creative. Even though their production was like Shakespeare's stage without scenery it "was by no means lacking in spectacle". Our NY student were inspired to write their own play.
It was a wonderful conference and well worth the wait. Although I think the first week in March works out just fine for most of us more simple folk.