Having never done anything like this before I admit I was absolutely terrified until about a week before when I took on the philosophical view that whatever happens, happens! As you know our pupils are not predictable and their own response to the story, play, and the experience of being on stage can vary depending on day, mood etc.
I now feel that it is my biggest achievement as a teacher in 22 years and one of my assistants has worked at the school told me it was the 'highlight of her 26 years!' I was quite unprepared for the response of the audience particularly those who did not have an interest in our school.
I wanted to keep it simple, very visual and meaningful for our pupils. There was no point in doing it if they did not understand and therefore respond emotionally to the story. Our Romeo had suffered a bereavement himself only 4 weeks earlier (his grandmother with whom he lived). So the theme of death had a particular poignancy for him.
For me the most positive influence was the Inclusive teacher workshop held in March with other teachers from Special Schools. It was at that moment I realised that it was crucial to develop the play from the pupils own responses and experiences rather than impose lines and movements on them. It is such a simple idea and yet so effective.
It is very freeing not to have to rely on complicated props and costumes. The challenge from that moment was how to tell the story without all the dialogue but keeping the most important bits, but 20 + years teaching special needs children helped me to do that!
All our pupils learn in a sensory way so that is why I used colour and music to help tell the story. In the end we realised that music was key to cueing the pupils in and even on the performance day I learnt more about lighting and how useful it was to help direct the cast to their places. I was so proud of them on the day!
Your words : 'You created a supportive framework which enabled them to shine. They were independent, committed and truly joyful performers' very neatly summed up what I was trying to achieve without having ever put it into words myself. So thank you for that. I feel that personally I have gained so much more confidence from the positive feedback of staff and parents it will affect all areas of my work and ... dare I say it life!
I would definitely like to do it again and next time will not be so scary!! The challenge is to think of a play that I can adapt similarly and create the same impact!