Thursday, February 17, 2011

Duct Tape Team Building

"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?" ~Emily

I don't often speak of teaching here on my personal blog. (un)Deniably Domestic is my personal space and the place I stop and smell the roses, but this spring as I head into theatre season my creative life begins to cross borders into my professional life. Of course, I think that all of my teaching is creative, but there is something about theatre that lets me step out of the comfort zone of my English classroom and teach something that I love as much as words. I am blessed to be able to stretch myself in this way. We are moving into our fourth production this year with Our Town, by Thornton Wilder.

It is a remarkably simple production designed to allow the audience, and the players, and the crew to focus on the cycles, the ups and downs, and the beauty of our lives. It is truly timeless. No matter what your age, or your position, you will find yourself in this play. I was once Rebecca, then Emily, and now I am Mrs. Gibbs. The play changes us, the players, but our challenge is to allow the audience to change.

I have a full compliment of budding costumers this year. Because the annual production is above and beyond my normal obligations as a teacher and lead instructor, I needed help. To find help, I developed an introduction to costuming class. To my surprise, I have nine enrolled students. They are a lively bunch full of creativity and good ideas. I am taking the best of what I have learned in professional theatre to them in hopes that they will catch the bug and let theatre be a part of their lives from this point on.

These students have begun to build a course website, Costume This with Ms. A., viewed the original screenplay of Our Town and experienced a remarkable paradigm shift in creativity after watching the documentary, OT: Our Town.

Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges in theatre is the human ego. We, cast, crew, and production staff are creatively driven peoples understanding that in our own way, acting, sewing, designing, producing, lighting, set design, etc., is performance. All of these separate components must come together into one unit, one success. Egos can make working toward that one unit and one success difficult at best, so I have begun the semester with team building activities.

Our first project was to make a costume accessory out of duct tape. Each student had the option of working independently or with another member of the class. Some worked together and some did not. They had approximately an hour and a half to design and construct an aesthetically pleasing and functional costume accessory. As they showed off their pieces, I began to ask them to think about how they got to their end result. I want them to focus on their process at this point more than their results. This will reveal problem solving skills and creativity required with tight theatre budgets and short lead time.

Inspired by the Duck Brand duct tape prom challenge, I challenged them to design, construct and create a garment in sixty minutes. Seven out of nine students were present to participate and here is their go-go girl result.

We discussed process. They had failures along the way, but worked well as a team to design and problem solve. Each student shared that they felt their ideas and contributions were valued by other members of the group. I was thrilled. This was both an academic and creative success. Students get all of the credit.


  1. What a fun and informative post. So, what do you do in all your spare time?

    When my now-doctor daughter Laura was 8, we participated in the local Jr. college production of Hello, Dolly! Our costumes came from the racks of thrifted clothes used by the theater dept. Not exactly period, but with a little creativity, they were adequate. Most importantly, we had FUN together.

    Have some fun, girlies!


  2. Hello, thank you so much for the lovely comments. It's great to meet you.
    I would love to come to Missouri for a chat, coffee and crochet. It's going to take us a long time to save up to do the trip.
    The crochet flowers came from a Japanese book, the same one that is mentioned in the last post. It's a fabulous book.
    I hope you have a great weekend. Much love.

  3. i love old movies. i will have to check that one out. my youngest is in the play oliver at his high school. he is having a great time. he has an excellent and dedicated drama teacher. enjoy!

  4. Hi Kelly, it was lovely to have you visit my wee blog. I'm not sure if you can get that book "Tips from your Nana" via Amazon but you can definitely get it through - it's a fabulous book. I love your blog and can't wait to have a good look around. Leah