What does it take to put on the annual 31er Event skits? A lot! A lot of thinking, practice, work, and fun!
I got involved with the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association after Patty Sullivan came to our school, Andrew J. Mitchell Elementary. She gave us a presentation about the 31ers. At the end, she asked for us to consider helping to keep our local history alive as it is a vital piece of our national history. My forte is technology, so I asked her if she needed any help in that area. Did she! I was able to transfer several taped interviews to DVD for the museum to hand out to prospective donors and for the archives.
Out of that relationship grew talk of bringing the dam history to life through drama. Our literacy specialist Josie Kachnic wrote the first skit, The Refrigerator Salesman. Josie and I to sat in on an interview with 31er Laura Godbey. We were asked if we could incorporate some of what we had heard into skits, using students from Mitchell as actors. When asked, we were honored to be part of the 31ers Luncheon. That was four-years and several skits ago!
In the process of watching excerpts from the tapes, I became more and more interested in Boulder City history. What I discovered was a world of many little-known adventures all with the common thread of coming here to build Boulder Dam…and the city I live in. One amazing aspect is in the variety of 31er backgrounds and pathways it took the workers to get to Southern Nevada. Some came with their physical strength, some with a college education, others only with what would fit in an old jalopy with four bald tires and a leaky radiator.
The history of the dam is not told simply in blood, sweat, and concrete – but rather who poured blood, sweat, and concrete. Right now, that's the history of where I live and am raising my family. It needs to be remembered. It needs to be honored by being told – the good, the poor, and the downright bad. In the coming years, I hope to tell many more stories through skits.
In the beginning, I didn't have a lot of confidence in my own directing skills or my ability to help put on a play. I have since learned a lot from other teachers, especially in teaming up with master director Janae Williams for the last five-years to put on two plays
each year at Mitchell.
So how do we put on these plays? First, the second grade teachers pick one child from each classroom to be an actor – usually seven or eight. We send home permission slips and schedule times before or after school for practice. Some teachers help run the practices, direct, make props – anything needed. Rhonda Gatlin, Kim Davidson, and Janae Williams lend their expertise to help the children hone their newfound acting skills. Together, we work out the kinks in staging, voice projection and confidence building. In addition to writing/editing, Josie makes authentic-looking props by hand. I also write/edit skits, make props on my computer, find 30's music and sound effects (like old-style car horns and revving engines). I put them on an iPad and use them to set the ambience and for transitions between scenes.
Skit ideas come from the video interviews, audio stories from living eye-witnesses, and from reading histories of the dam builders and families.
This past year, I took the writing reigns. I started my research by reviewing oral histories from my video archive. I was able to write four vignettes depicting (with some humorous license) life events of Robert Parker. He was in charge of many things, including supplies, equipment, and safety of explosives during dam construction and the beginning of World War 2.
At Mitchell, for the last four years, we have been teaching concepts from the book, The Leader in Me, and 7 Key Leadership Habits. When you put on a play, the kids and the parents who help are utilizing the Habits in order for it to be successful! "Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood, Synergize, Sharpen the Saw," all are used to make each play great!
What happens when good students becomes leaders? They become more successful versions of themselves! Good leadership skills are a foundation built upon bedrock, with steel rebar reinforced concrete all the way up! This reminds me of building Hoover Dam. Instilling these skills in our future leaders is the strongest draw for me to do all the work at school and on my own time to help create and make 31er skits successful – and, of course, it is a lot of fun!
Please join us Saturday, October 11th for the 31ers Luncheon and this year's second grade skits. Call the Museum at 702 294-1988 for tickets