It’s 7:45 on a Monday morning and sixty young teenagers are lined up outside Tom Baines Jr. High School in Calgary, braving the elements and waiting with anticipation. They’re not here for the latest video game release; they’re waiting with permission slips in hand to secure their spot on a field trip to Rosebud Theatre.
I have been bringing my performing arts students to Alberta’s largest rural professional theatre since 2003. Our trip to see “Cotton Patch Gospel” on June 5, 2013, marked the 1000th student I have introduced to Rosebud.
Each year I describe Rosebud to my eager 12 to 14-year-old drama students as a beautiful oasis nestled in a valley of Alberta’s rolling prairies; a sort of sanctuary where stories live and the arts and learning thrive. I tell them that Rosebud is a town that probably should have dried up and blown away into Alberta’s agricultural history books, but that it is very much alive and more vibrant today than ever. Theatre is the lifeblood of this town and people from all over the world travel there to drink in its magic.
I was first inspired by the Quebec trip offered to my school’s French classes, and I wanted a similar experience for my performing arts students. The learning was something that would certainly last a lifetime. But where would I take them to be completely immersed in theatre? The answer was easy: Rosebud! My students can’t wait for the day when we all dress for theatre, ladies and gentlemen style, and board the bus to escape from the busy city and find ourselves immersed in this warm arts community.
We have always enjoyed the behind-the-scenes exploration of Rosebud where our hosts—who have become people I consider my personal friends— take us backstage, onstage, under the stage, through costumes, set, classrooms, galleries and more. They extend the same quality of respect I have for my students, and they enrich and extend the learning for each young person in ways I could never achieve without Rosebud. It always inspires me to listen to my students interact with the players. Students can’t wait to get back into our little theatre to continue learning and performing themselves. You can just feel it on the bus ride home.
As a teacher in 2013, during the digital revolution, it is incredibly important to recognize the inherent need for the human exchange that feeds our emotional needs and accommodates emotional learning. Learning in and through the arts allows us to express, explore and discover more of who we are through the giving of ourselves and accepting of others as artists, creators and performers. By taking young, urban citizens away from a busy metropolis of more than a million people, it sets the stage to unplug, breathe and open up to the human exchange of story that can’t be matched by movies or television.
As a drama teacher, it is vital to me that my students are immersed in theatre beyond the audience side of the fourth wall. In Rosebud my students are accepted as performing artists, each with a personal story to celebrate and discover through the many facets of theatre: playwriting, set design and construction, prop design, costume design, musical expression, acting, directing and more. With this immersion in the theatrical arts my students are inspired to express their unique voice, and those who experience their creations are always the better for it.
With the ongoing support of my school administration and Board of Education, my students will continue to benefit from the incredible wealth of learning potential this small town with a big heart has to offer. Thank you Rosebud. Let’s go for two thousand! It is my hope that my fellow teachers will be inspired to seek out similar unique learning opportunities in their local communities.
About Rosebud Theatre
Rosebud Theatre welcomes student groups to all regularly scheduled performances and has several theatre-only school matinee dates throughout the season. This fall, the school curriculum staple, “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, will play at the Rosebud Opera House from September 13 to October 29.
Rosebud is also home to Rosebud School of the Arts (RSA), a post-secondary institution offering a four-year professional theatre training program. RSA’s relationship with Rosebud Theatre allows students valuable opportunities to apprentice with Alberta’s largest rural professional theatre company. The school and the theatre are located in Rosebud, Alberta, approximately an hour’s drive northeast of Calgary city limits.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Dougherty, 2010 recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, presently teaches Performing Arts and Explorations in Film at Tom Baines Jr. High School in Calgary. Rob believes the foundation of significant and meaningful learning requires an authentic relationship between the student and teacher and that learning through and about the arts is the perfect vehicle for building those relationships.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Sept/Oct 2013 issue.