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The Art of Teaching Theatre: Endings and Rituals

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L-R: Sharon Lawrence, York Walker, Mae Whitman and David Pittu in “The Mystery of Love & Sex” at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum. Written by Bathsheba Doran and directed by Robert Egan, “The Mystery of Love & Sex” plays February 10 – March 20, 2016, at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum. For tickets and information, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 628-2772. .Contact: CTG Media and Communications/ (213) 972-7376/CTGMedia@ctgla.org.Photo by Craig Schwartz.

All Uses © 2016 Craig Schwartz

Throughout the school year, we are asking Los Angeles educators for their most inspiring and essential ideas for teaching and integrating theatre in the classroom. If you’re a local educator with a passionate and innovative approach to working with students or a self-growth strategy to share with colleagues, pitch your blog idea to Education@CenterTheatreGroup.org

In a world that is ever more rushed and about getting to the next thing, we often overlook the importance of endings and taking time to honor the progress we’ve made and who we’ve become along the way. As we transition from one place and time to another, I offer that we say goodbye to an older version of our self and give the passage adequate attention. By taking time for a full and complete ending, we complete the process of change and open ourselves for what’s to come.

Endings come in all shapes, sizes and intensities, and there are ending rituals for all. Daily rituals can be as simple as taking breaths together or sharing appreciations to close a class. As an educator who works with youth daily, rituals are important to my work. I always use a simple starting and ending ritual to create space for my students and myself. We know that when we are in this space we have the freedom to express ourselves openly and freely, and in return, we give others the space to do so as well.

More in-depth rituals can be used to mark the end of a larger process, such as a series of workshops or the end of a school year. At these points, it is important to acknowledge the journey that we’ve taken and honor who we were at the beginning of the process and who we are in the present. By using ritual, we can say goodbye to our old self, offer appreciation for the growth we've experienced, and set intentions for our new self, going strongly out into the world.

For example, a simple writing prompt, “I remember…,” can be a great launching point for reflection on an experience. Students free-write for 10 to 15 minutes starting each memory with “I remember...” When completed, students are given an opportunity to share their favorite excerpt.

Another great ending ritual is a "circle of appreciations" where students share something they are grateful for, one by one, in a circle. I incorporate this daily and often use a talking piece — a unique and personal object that denotes whose turn it is to speak — to make sure the group honors each person’s voice. Also, students can each bring in a significant object that represents his or her experience to mark the ending of a larger process.

Endings give us time to breathe, remember, feel and share. Endings provide space to recognize ourselves and those around us and give us courage to go out into our communities as transformed individuals. With these closing rituals, we can turn endings into a time of celebration and joy, easing the pain of loss that can result when pushed too quickly out of a space that has been a large part of our lives.

One breath for those who come before us. One breath for those reading this today. And one breath for the lives we will touch as we move out into the world, remembering the importance of endings.

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