Back in time to learn history

Goshen College theater students put on historical plays for local elementary school students.

Posted on May 14, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — Eighty students packed the small classroom. They sat behind a line of white tape separating the audience of 4th and 5th graders and the stage. They eagerly waited to see what their special presentation would be.

As part of a May term theater class, 13 Goshen College students put on “Hoosier History 5000,” a 30-minute show for various Goshen elementary schools to teach them about state history.

The class, “Touring Theater for Young Audience,” is taught by theater professor Dr. Doug Liechty Caskey, who is also chair of the theater department. The intensive class meets for three weeks in the month of May.

Caskey said that when most theater students graduate, their first jobs are in touring companies or children’s theaters. This class allows them to see what it’s like to work in both. They’ll perform at Prairie View Elementary today, May 14, and at Model Elementary and Bethany Christian School on Tuesday to wrap it up.

“It’s good acting practice,” Caskey said.

The class picked the students’ age group because fourth graders across the state study Indiana history. Caskey said they also chose to show this play to third graders to give them a preview of what they’ll be learning next year and brought in fifth graders to give them a review of what they learned before.

The program is provided free to schools. While the students spend the year learning about Hoosier history, Caskey said the play seems more like entertainment instead of education.

“They have no idea they learned something,” Caskey said.

The play revolves around three fifth-grade students assigned to write a paper on what it means to be a Hoosier. They travel back in time to see what former Indiana residents could teach them.

GC junior Vanessa Jones, who played one of the time travelers, said that she enjoyed performing for a younger audience.

“It’s so much fun to go back to elementary school,” she said.

The play included Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley and the Miami tribe on the Wabash River. The group’s first elementary school performance was on May 10 to students at Benton Elementary. The term started on April 25 and runs until Wednesday.

A native of South Dakota, Jones said that even she found she was learning something about her new state.

“We’re here to teach the kids, but I’ve learned so much too,” she said.

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